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Cholecystokinin and panic disorder: past and future clinical research strategies.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Ottawa and the Royal Ottawa Hospital, Ontario, Canada.


The involvement of cholecystokinin (CCK) in human anxiety is well documented. Exogenous administration of CCK-2 receptor agonists, such as cholecystokinin-tetrapeptide and pentagastrin, provoke panic attacks in man. Patients with panic disorder (PD) are hypersensitive to CCK-2 receptor stimulation compared to healthy volunteers and patients with other anxiety disorders, and they differ from healthy subjects in CCK metabolism and genetic characteristics of the CCK-2 receptor system. This article reviews the corpus of work supporting the role of CCK in anxiety and suggests three research approaches which can further enhance our understanding of the CCK-2 system in PD. These approaches include: i) searching for a specific anomaly of the CCK-2 receptor system, ii) establishing a relationship between CCK-2 receptor polymorphism and vulnerability to pharmacologically-induced or spontaneous panic attacks, and iii) evaluating the therapeutic efficacy of CCK-2 receptor antagonists which possess adequate pharmacokinetic properties.

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