To explore 5-HT1A receptor responsivity in panic disorder (PD), hypothermic, neuroendocrine and behavioral responses to the selective partial 5-HT1A receptor agonist ipsapirone (IPS) were investigated in patients with primary PD and healthy controls. Fourteen patients and matched controls received a single oral dose of 0.3 mg/kg IPS or placebo under double-blind, random-assignment conditions. IPS induced hypothermia and corticotropin (ACTH)/cortisol release but had only minimal effects on behavior. Compared with controls, the patients with PD exhibited significantly attenuated thermoregulatory and neuroendocrine responses to IPS. Although the healthy subjects reported increased drowsiness and the PD patients rated themselves more nervous and less calm following administration of IPS, no consistent changes in ratings of anxiety or panic symptoms were recorded. The impaired hypothermic and ACTH/cortisol responses following 5-HT1A receptor activation reflects subsensitivity of both the pre- and post-synaptic 5-HT1A receptor-effector system, thus supporting the hypothesis that a 5-HT1A receptor-related serotonergic dysfunction may be linked to the pathophysiology of PD. Future studies of 5-HT1A receptor-effector complex function in conjunction with assessment of the responsivity of other subtypes (e.g. 5-HT2, 5-HT3) should promote the evaluation of 5-HT system integrity in anxiety disorders and its involvement in anxiolytic drug effects.