- Acute psychological stress is the presumed immediate cause of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and may also contribute to other anxiety disorders. Abnormal activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis has been tentatively implicated in some of the features of these disorders. Ketoconazole (KTCZ), an imidazole derivative, is a potent inhibitor of gonadal and adrenal steroidogenesis. The aim of this study was to explore the effects of KTCZ blockade of adrenal steroidogenesis, and consequent elevation of adreno-corticotropic hormone (ACTH), on a model of chronic post-traumatic anxiety in rats. Amelioration of anxious behaviors after reduction of corticosterone would suggest that corticosterone (and by implication cortisol in humans) is an important mediator of anxious symptoms: exacerbation of such behaviors would suggest that corticosterone elevations are only secondary, and possibly implicate corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH) and/or ACTH in the pathogenesis of anxious symptoms. We exposed rats for 10 min to cat scent, a prima facie valid model for acute psychological stress, with and without high dose KTCZ for 14 days. Treatment with KTCZ abolished the chronic behavioral effects of acute exposure to a cat scent. Lower levels of anxious behavior in KTCZ-treated and exposed rats were accompanied by lower plasma corticosterone, ACTH and prolactin (PRL) levels compared to untreated exposed rats. Results in this model implicate corticosterone, but not ACTH, in the pathogenesis of chronic anxiety following acute psychological stress.