Effects of propranolol on symptom and endocrine responses to pentagastrin

Samir Khan, Israel Liberzon, James L. Abelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Intravenous injections of CCK-B agonists, such as pentagastrin, produce symptoms of panic and potent activation of the human hypothalamic-pituitary- adrenal (HPA) axis. It is unclear whether these psychological and endocrine effects are mediated by similar or independent processes. Independence is supported by prior evidence that β-adrenergic receptor blockade attenuates cardiovascular and symptom but not vasopressin responses to CCK-4. To further explore associations between somatic, emotional and endocrine responses to CCK-B agents, and potential β-adrenergic mediating mechanisms, symptom and endocrine responses to pentagastrin were examined after propranolol pre-treatment. Cardiovascular, symptom, and endocrine (ACTH, cortisol, epinephrine) responses to pentagastrin were measured in 16 healthy adult subjects randomly assigned to receive propranolol or placebo pre-treatment. Propranolol significantly blocked the normal cardiac acceleration produced by pentagastrin, but did not reduce panic symptom or anxiety effects. It delayed and perhaps enhanced the cortisol response. No relationship between HPA and symptom responses following pentagastrin could be detected, though pre-pentagastrin cortisol was inversely related to post-injection panic symptom intensity. Endocrine, cardiovascular and symptom responses to pentagastrin appear to be separately mediated, as they did not change in concert in response to propranolol pre-treatment, nor were they correlated with one another. The results are consistent with the presence of inhibitory β-adrenergic mediation of the HPA axis in humans. They support the hypothesis that the HPA response to pentagastrin is not secondary to the psychological stress of its side effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1163-1171
Number of pages9
Issue number9
StatePublished - Oct 2004


  • CCK
  • Cortisol
  • HPA
  • Panic
  • Pentagastrin
  • Propranolol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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