Lithium is an effective medication for the treatment of bipolar affective disorder. Accumulating evidence suggests that inflammation plays a role in the pathogenesis of bipolar disorder and that lithium has anti-inflammatory effects that may contribute to its therapeutic efficacy. This article summarizes the studies which examined the effects of lithium on pro- and anti-inflammatory mediators. Some of the summarized data suggest that lithium exerts anti-inflammatory effects (e.g., suppression of cyclooxygenase-2 expression, inhibition of interleukin (IL)-1β and tumor necrosis factor-α production, and enhancement of IL-2 and IL-10 synthesis). Nevertheless, there is a large body of data which indicates that under certain experimental conditions lithium also exhibits pro-inflammatory properties (e.g., induction of IL-4, IL-6 and other pro-inflammatory cytokines synthesis). The reviewed studies utilized various experimental model systems, and it is thus difficult to draw an unequivocal conclusion regarding the effect of lithium on specific inflammatory mediators.
Keywords: Cyclooxygenase; cytokines; glia cells; glycogen synthase kinase-3β; inflammation; lithium; nitric oxide; nuclear factor-κB; prostaglandins.