Panic disorder is a major cause of medical attention with substantial social and health service cost. Based on pharmacological studies, research on its etiopathogenesis has been focused on the possible dysfunction of specific neurotransmitter systems. However, recent work has related the genes involved in development, synaptic plasticity and synaptic remodeling to anxiety disorders. This implies that learning processes and changes in perception, interpretation and behavioral responses to environmental stimuli are essential for development of complex anxiety responses secondary to the building of specific brain neural circuits and to adult plasticity. The focus of this review is on progress achieved in identifying genes that confer increased risk for panic disorder through genetic epidemiology and the use of genetically modified mouse models. The integration of human and animal studies targeting behavioral, systems-level, cellular and molecular levels will most probably help identify new molecules with potential impact on the pathogenetic aspects of the disease.