PTSD in women is associated with a block in conversion of progesterone to the GABAergic neurosteroids allopregnanolone and pregnanolone measured in plasma.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

There is a need to identify new and more effective treatments for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Allopregnanolone and its stereoisomer pregnanolone (together termed ALLO) are metabolites of progesterone that positively and allosterically modulate GABA effects at GABAA receptors, thereby reducing anxiety and depression. Previous research revealed that women with PTSD had low cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) ALLO levels and a low ratio of ALLO to the allopregnanolone precursor 5α-DHP, consistent with deficient activity of the ALLO synthetic enzyme 3α-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (3α-HSD). The current study examined ALLO and the ratio of ALLO to 5α-DHP in plasma at rest and in response to psychophysiological stressors in trauma-exposed, medication-free women with and without PTSD. Participants were examined twice in random order during the early follicular phase (eFP) and mid-luteal phase (mLP) of the menstrual cycle. Plasma neurosteroids were measured using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Results indicate that the ALLO to 5α-DHP ratio in plasma increases between the eFP and mLP. In addition, women with PTSD have a lower ratio of ALLO to 5α-DHP than trauma-exposed healthy women, as well as blunted increases in this ratio in response to a moderately stressful laboratory procedure, i.e., differential fear conditioning, across the menstrual cycle. Clinically feasible testing for 3α-HSD dysfunction is critical to translating this line of research into clinical care. Measurement of this ratio in plasma could facilitate patient stratification in clinical treatment trials, as well as precision medicine targeting of treatments that address ALLO synthesis deficits in women with PTSD.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Pineles, SL; Nillni, YI; Pinna, G; Irvine, J; Webb, A; Arditte Hall, KA; Hauger, R; Miller, MW; Resick, PA; Orr, SP; Rasmusson, AM

Published Date

  • July 2018

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 93 /

Start / End Page

  • 133 - 141

PubMed ID

  • 29727810

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1873-3360

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2018.04.024


  • eng

Conference Location

  • England