Background: Peripheral-type benzodiazepine receptors (PBR) are responsible for mitochondrial cholesterol uptake, the rate limiting step of steroidiogenesis. They have been shown to be increased after acute stress, and decreased during exposure to chronic stressful conditions, and in patients with generalized anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. In view of the proven connection between adolescent suicidal behavior and stress, we hypothesized that PBR may be decreased in the suicidal adolescent population.
Methods: We measured [3H] PK 11195 binding to platelet membrane in nine adolescent (age 13-20 years) inpatients with a history of at least three suicidal attempts and ten age-matched psychiatric inpatients with no history of suicide attempts. Suicidality was assessed with the Suicide Risk Scale (SRS), and symptom severity with the Beck Depression Inventory, State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), Overt Aggression Scale (OAS), and Impulsivity Scale (IS).
Results: Suicide Risk Scale scores were significantly higher in the suicidal group. The suicidal group showed a significant decrease in platelet PBR density (-35%) compared to the controls (p < 0.005).
Conclusions: Our results of PBR depletion in adolescent suicide are in accordance with the findings in patients with generalized anxiety disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder and lend further support to the role of PBR in human response to chronic stress in adolescent suicide.