Leptin, Anxiety Symptoms, and Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis Activity among Drug-Free, Female Suicide Attempters

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BACKGROUND: Dysregulation of leptin secretion and functioning of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis may be involved in the pathophysiology of suicide. Preclinical and clinical studies have shown interactions between the HPA axis and leptin. There is also evidence for a negative relationship between leptin and anxiety in humans. However, these possible associations have not been studied in individuals with attempted suicide.

OBJECTIVES: To examine the relationship between leptin, HPA axis activity, and anxiety in individuals with a recent suicide attempt.

METHOD: Sixty-nine individuals with a recent suicide attempt (n = 37 females; n = 32 males) were recruited and subjected to the Dexamethasone Suppression Test (DST), lumbar puncture, and evaluation with the Comprehensive Psychopathological Rating Scale from which the Brief Scale for Anxiety (BSA) was derived. Leptin was analyzed in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and cortisol in serum. Leptin was corrected for body mass index (BMI) by dividing CSF-leptin by BMI (CSF-leptin/BMI). Due to gender-related differences in leptin secretion and HPA axis activity, calculations were made for males and females separately.

RESULTS: Significant differences were only found among females; CSF-leptin/BMI levels correlated significantly and negatively with BSA (p < 0.05), pre-DST cortisol, and post-DST serum cortisol at 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. (all p < 0.05). Furthermore, CSF-leptin/BMI was significantly lower in nonsuppressors of dexamethasone as compared to suppressors (p < 0.05).

CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that in females with a recent suicide attempt, low CSF leptin may be related to symptoms of anxiety and a hyperactive HPA axis.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Pharmaceutical Chemistry
  • Psychiatry
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-152
Number of pages8
Issue number3
Early online date2019 Jun 12
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch