Decreased density of peripheral benzodiazepine receptors in psychiatric patients after a suicide attempt

Donatella Marazziti, Bernardo Dell'Osso, Stefano Baroni, Irene Masala, Elena Di Nasso, Gino Giannaccini, Luciano Conti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To date, two main types of benzodiazepine (BDZ) receptors have been identified: one of these is the so-called central receptor which is found mainly in the cortex, limbic areas and cerebellum, and the other is known as the peripheral receptor, which is found in the kidneys, lungs, ovaries, testes, adrenal glands and blood cells, but is present also in the central nervous system (CNS), in particular in glial cells. Although for some time the peripheral BDZ receptor has been considered an acceptor site with no pharmacological activity, recent data have suggested that it may be involved in a variety of actions, such as the response to stress. The presence of these receptors in blood platelets, which are considered a reliable, peripheral mirror of the same structures located in the SNC, prompted us to evaluate them in a group of psychiatric patients after a suicide attempt, as compared with healthy control subjects, by means of the specific binding of 3H-PK 11195. Suicide, with no doubt, may be considered one of the most stressful situations occurring to humans. The results showed the presence of a significant decrease in the density of 3H-PK 11195 binding sites in the patients, as compared with healthy control subjects. This finding may represent a non-specific indicator of a condition of stress, since peripheral BDZ receptors are modulated by stress and hormones, or it may result more from an abnormal metabolism of steroid substances which could play a pivotal role in the development of vulnerability towards suicide.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3268-3275
Number of pages8
JournalLife Sciences
Issue number26
Publication statusPublished - Nov 12 2005


  • Benzodiazepine receptors
  • Cholesterol
  • Peripheral benzodiazepine receptors
  • Stress
  • Suicide attempt

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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