Potential Mechanisms of Action of Lamotrigine in the Treatment of Bipolar Disorders

J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2003 Oct;23(5):484-95. doi: 10.1097/01.jcp.0000088915.02635.e8.


Based on the mood-stabilizing properties of carbamazepine and valproate, new anticonvulsants have been explored for use in bipolar disorders. One such agent, lamotrigine, has a novel clinical profile in that it may "stabilize mood from below," as it appears to maximally impact depressive symptoms in bipolar disorders. In this paper, we review the mechanisms of action of lamotrigine in an effort to understand the basis of its distinctive clinical use in the management of bipolar disorders as well as its diverse antiseizure effects. We consider lamotrigine mechanisms, emphasizing commonalities and dissociations among actions of lamotrigine, older mood stabilizers, and other anticonvulsants. Although ion channel effects, especially sodium channel blockade, may importantly contribute to antiseizure effects, such actions may be less central to lamotrigine thymoleptic effects. Antiglutamatergic and neuroprotective actions are important candidate mechanisms for lamotrigine psychotropic effects. Lamotrigine has a variable profile in kindling and contingent tolerance experiments and does not appear to have robust gamma-aminobutyric acid or monoaminergic actions. Lamotrigine intracellular signaling effects warrant investigation. Although lamotrigine mechanisms overlap those of other mood-stabilizing anticonvulsants, important dissociations suggest candidate mechanisms, which could contribute to lamotrigine's distinctive psychotropic profile.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bipolar Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Bipolar Disorder / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Ion Channels / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Ion Channels / metabolism
  • Lamotrigine
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Triazines / pharmacology*
  • Triazines / therapeutic use*


  • Ion Channels
  • Triazines
  • Lamotrigine