Novel mechanism of action for the mood stabilizer lithium
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BACKGROUND: Bipolar Disorder (BD) is associated with a decrease in cellular resilience. Despite the half a century old discovery of lithium's efficacy for the treatment of BD, its exact mechanisms remain elusive. Accumulating data suggest that lithium's cytoprotective properties involve the modulation of several UPR proteins, such as GRP78. Mesencephalic astrocyte-derived neurotrophic factor (MANF) is an endoplasmic reticulum resident protein that regulates proteostasis through directly interacting with GRP78. The purpose of this study was to determine whether lithium increases MANF expression using cellular and rodent models and, if so, to elucidate the cellular mechanisms of action. PROCEDURE: Mouse striatal neuroblasts were treated with PBS, lithium, or lithium + Activator Protein-1 (AP-1) inhibitor for 24-72 hours. Once cells were harvested, mRNA was extracted. In vivo experiments included, intraperitoneal injections of lithium or saline to male Sprague Dawley rats twice daily for 14 consecutive days. Following drug treatment, brain tissue was isolated, and mRNA was extracted from various regions. MANF gene expression was measured using RT-qPCR. RESULTS: In vitro studies showed lithium-treated cells displayed a significant increase in MANF mRNA expression compared to controls. In contrast, cells treated with lithium and AP-1 inhibitor showed no increase in expression. Similarly, in vivo studies revealed that lithium-treated rats compared to controls had a significant increase in MANF expression in the PFC and striatum. CONCLUSION: Taken together, these data suggest that lithium's therapeutic mechanism involves the maintenance of ER homeostasis via increased MANF gene expression mediated by the AP-1 transcription factor.
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