Wnt and lithium: a common destiny in the therapy of nervous system pathologies?

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2014 Apr;71(7):1123-48. doi: 10.1007/s00018-013-1378-1. Epub 2013 Jun 9.


Wnt signaling is required for neurogenesis, the fate of neural progenitors, the formation of neuronal circuits during development, neuron positioning and polarization, axon and dendrite development and finally for synaptogenesis. This signaling pathway is also implicated in the generation and differentiation of glial cells. In this review, we describe the mechanisms of action of Wnt signaling pathways and their implication in the development and correct functioning of the nervous system. We also illustrate how a dysregulated Wnt pathway could lead to psychiatric, neurodegenerative and demyelinating pathologies. Lithium, used for the treatment of bipolar disease, inhibits GSK3β, a central enzyme of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway. Thus, lithium could, to some extent, mimic Wnt pathway. We highlight the possible dialogue between lithium therapy and modulation of Wnt pathway in the treatment of the diseases of the nervous system.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Polarity
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / metabolism
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / therapeutic use*
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 / physiology
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 beta
  • Humans
  • Lithium / metabolism
  • Lithium / therapeutic use*
  • Models, Biological
  • Nervous System / metabolism
  • Nervous System Diseases / metabolism*
  • Synaptic Transmission / drug effects
  • Wnt Proteins / metabolism
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway*
  • beta Catenin / metabolism
  • beta Catenin / physiology


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Wnt Proteins
  • beta Catenin
  • Lithium
  • GSK3B protein, human
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 beta
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3