Deciphering the lithium transcriptome: microarray profiling of lithium-modulated gene expression in human neuronal cells

Neuroscience. 2008 Feb 19;151(4):1184-97. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2007.10.045. Epub 2007 Nov 13.


The mechanisms underlying lithium's therapeutic efficacy in the chronic treatment of bipolar disorder are not clearly understood. Useful insights can be obtained by identifying genes that are differentially regulated during chronic lithium treatment. Toward this end, we have used microarray technology to identify mRNAs that are differentially expressed in a human neuronal cell line that has been continuously maintained in therapeutic levels of lithium for 33 days. Significantly, unlike other transcriptomes where predominantly rodent cells were used and a limited number of genes probed, we have used human cells probed with more extensive 44,000 gene microarrays. A total of 671 differentially regulated transcripts, after correcting for false discovery rates, were identified, of which 347 and 324, respectively, were found to be up- and downregulated. Peroxiredoxin 2 (PRDX2), an antioxidant enzyme, was the most upregulated while tribbles homolog 3 (TRB3), a pro-apoptotic protein, was the most downregulated, implying a beneficial effect of lithium on neuronal cells. Several of the most highly regulated genes are novel, uncharacterized and encode proteins of unknown function. Differentially expressed genes associated with phosphoinositide metabolism include those encoding phosphatidyl inositol 4-phosphate 5-kinase type II alpha (PIP5K2A), WD repeat domain, phosphoinositide interacting 1 protein (WIPI49), tribbles homolog 3 (TRB3) and sorting nexin 14 (SNX14). A protein interactome using some of the saliently regulated genes identified protein kinase C (PKC) as a major target for lithium action while a global analysis of all 671 differentially expressed genes identified the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway as the most regulated. The list of highly regulated genes, besides encoding putative targets for antimanic agents, should prove useful in defining novel pathways, or to better understand the mechanisms, underlying the mood stabilization process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Antipsychotic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Gene Expression / drug effects*
  • Gene Expression / physiology
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Lithium / pharmacology*
  • Neuroblastoma / pathology


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Lithium