The psychoneuroimmunology of panic disorder is relatively unexplored. Alterations within brain stress systems that secondarily influence the immune system have been documented. A recent report indicated elevations of serotonin (5-HT) and ganglioside antibodies in patients with primary fibromyalgia, a condition with documented associations with panic disorder. In line with our interest in dysregulated 5-HT systems in panic disorder (PD), we wished to assess if antibodies directed at the 5-HT system were elevated in patients with PD in comparison to healthy volunteers. Sixty-three patients with panic disorder and 26 healthy volunteers were diagnosed by the SCID. Employing ELISA, we measured anti-5-HT and 5-HT anti-idiotypic antibodies (which are directed at 5-HT receptors). To include all subjects in one experiment, three different batches were run during the ELISA. Plasma serotonin anti-idiotypic antibodies: there was a significant group effect [patients controls (p = .007)] and batch effect but no interaction. The mean effect size for the three batches was .76. Following Z-score transformation of each separate batch and then combining all scores, patients demonstrated significantly elevated levels of plasma serotonin anti-idiotypic antibodies. Neither sex nor age as covariates affected the significance of the results. There was a strong correlation between anti-serotonin antibody and serotonin anti- idiotypic antibody measures. Plasma anti-serotonin antibodies: there was a significant diagnosis effect [patients controls (p = .037)]. Mean effect size for the three batches was .52. Upon Z-score transformation, there was a diagnosis effect with antibody elevations in patients. Covaried for sex and age, the result falls below significance to trend levels. The data raise the possibility that psychoimmune dysfunction, specifically related to the 5-HT system, may be present in PD. Potential interruption of 5-HT neurotransmission through autoimmune mechanisms may be of pathophysiologic significance in certain patients with panic disorder. It remains to be demonstrated if the peripheral autoimmunity is representative of CNS 5-HT neuronal alterations. Replication appears warranted.
Coplan JD, Tamir H, Calaprice D, DeJesus M, de la Nuez M, Pine D, Papp LA et al.