Previous studies suggest a modulatory role of serotonin (5-HT) in experimentally-induced panic attacks. In the current study, we investigated the acute effects of 5-HT precursor l-5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) on the response to panicogenic challenge with cholecystokinin-tetrapeptide (CCK-4) in healthy volunteers. Thirty-two subjects were randomized to receive either 200 mg of 5-HTP or placebo with the CCK-4 challenge following in 90 min in a double-blind, parallel-group design. The results showed a nonsignificant difference between the groups in panic rate (19% after 5-HTP and 44% after placebo, p = 0.13) with a trend for lower intensity of symptoms after 5-HTP (p = 0.08). Further analysis by gender revealed that females in the 5-HTP group had a significantly lower panic rate and intensity of cognitive symptoms whereas, in males, the effect of 5-HTP was limited to lowering the intensity of somatic panic symptoms. Thus, an increased availability of 5-HT may have a gender-dependent protective effect in CCK-4-induced panic.