Broad spectrum of cytokine abnormalities in panic disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder

Depress Anxiety. 2009;26(5):447-55. doi: 10.1002/da.20564.


Background: Proinflammatory cytokines have been reported to be elevated in individuals experiencing chronic stress as well as in those with major depressive disorder. Much less is known about cytokines in anxiety disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and panic disorder (PD). We hypothesized that PD and PTSD would be associated with a generalized proinflammatory cytokine signature.

Method: We utilized Luminex technology to examine 20 cytokines and chemokines in serum from 48 well-characterized individuals with a primary DSM-IV PD or PTSD diagnosis, and 48 age- and gender-matched healthy controls. We conservatively employed a Bonferroni correction for multiple testing (alpha=.05/20=.0025).

Results: Individuals with primary PTSD or PD had significantly elevated median peripheral cytokine levels for 18 of 20 different cytokines compared to age- and gender-matched healthy controls (all P<.0025). To assess for the presence of a generalized proinflammatory state, we also examined the proportion of subjects with detectable levels of at least six of nine common proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines (IL-6, IL-1alpha, IL-1beta, IL-8, MCP-1, MIP-1alpha, Eotaxin, GM-CSF, and IFN-alpha). For men and women, 87% of anxiety patients had six or more detectable levels of these proinflammatory cytokines, compared with only 25% of controls (Fisher's Exact Test (FET) P=.000). Confirmatory analysis of the subset of individuals without current psychiatric medication use or comorbid depression was of comparable significance.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that a generalized inflammatory state may be present in individuals with PD or PTSD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Agoraphobia / immunology
  • Agoraphobia / psychology
  • Chemokines / blood
  • Cytokines / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / psychology
  • Inflammation Mediators / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Panic Disorder / immunology*
  • Panic Disorder / psychology
  • Reference Values
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / immunology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology


  • Chemokines
  • Cytokines
  • Inflammation Mediators