Chronic Lithium Treatment Inhibits Pilocarpine-Induced Mossy Fiber Sprouting in Rat Hippocampus
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Lithium remains the gold standard in the treatment of bipolar disorder. Long-term treatment with lithium may lead to specific adaptational changes in gene expression that contribute to a neuroprotective effect. In this study, the pilocarpine model of spontaneous limbic epilepsy was used to induce mossy fiber sprouting (axonal growth of the dentate granule cells that synapse on the pyramidal cells of the CA3 region) to examine the prophylactic neuroprotective effects of lithium in vivo. There were four groups of animals: pilocarpine treated (Pil+/Li-); pilocarpine treated followed by lithium (Pil+/Li+); lithium alone (Pil-/Li+); control (Pil-/Li-). Timm staining was used to obtain density measurements in the stratum oriens and the inner molecular layer of the hippocampus. Mossy fiber density was higher in the pilocarpine-treated animals compared to controls. Chronic lithium following pilocarpine treatment attenuated the density of mossy fibers but lithium alone had no effect. No changes in hilar volume or neuronal number were detected using stereological procedures. The ability of lithium to attenuate activation-induced reorganization in the hippocampus provides evidence for its role as a neuroprotective agent in an in vivo model that may be relevant to its clinical effects in bipolar disorder.
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