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Biol Psychiatry. 2001 May 1;49(9):788-97.

Allopregnanolone levels and reactivity to mental stress in premenstrual dysphoric disorder.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 27599, USA.



This study was designed to examine basal and stress-induced levels of the neuroactive progesterone metabolite, allopregnanolone, in women with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and healthy control subjects. Also, because evidence suggests that allopregnanolone negatively modulates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, plasma cortisol levels were examined. An additional goal was to investigate the relationship between premenstrual symptom severity and luteal phase allopregnanolone levels.


Twenty-four women meeting prospective criteria for PMDD were compared with 12 controls during both the follicular and luteal phases of confirmed ovulatory cycles, counterbalancing phase at first testing. Plasma allopregnanolone and cortisol were sampled after an extended baseline period and again 17 min following the onset of mental stress. Owing to low follicular phase allopregnanolone levels, only luteal phase allopregnanolone and cortisol were analyzed.


During the luteal phase, PMDD women had significantly greater allopregnanolone levels, coupled with significantly lower cortisol levels, during both baseline and mental stress. Moreover, significantly more controls (83%) showed the expected stress-induced increases in allopregnanolone compared with PMDD women (42%). Premenstrual dysphoric disorder women also exhibited a significantly greater allopregnanolone/progesterone ratio than control subjects, suggesting alterations in the metabolic pathways involved in the conversion of progesterone to allopregnanolone. Finally, PMDD women with greater levels of premenstrual anxiety and irritability had significantly reduced allopregnanolone levels in the luteal phase relative to less symptomatic PMDD women. No relationship between symptom severity and allopregnanolone was observed in controls.


These results suggest dysregulation of allopregnanolone mechanisms in PMDD and that continued investigations into a potential pathophysiologic role of allopregnanolone in PMDD are warranted.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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