Cellular models to study bipolar disorder: A systematic review

J Affect Disord. 2015 Sep 15;184:36-50. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2015.05.037. Epub 2015 May 28.


Background: There is an emerging interest in the use of cellular models to study psychiatric disorders. We have systematically reviewed the application of cellular models to understand the biological basis of bipolar disorder (BD).

Method: Published scientific literature in MEDLINE, PsychINFO and SCOPUS databases were identified with the following search strategy: [(Lymphoblastoid OR Lymphoblast OR Fibroblast OR Pluripotent OR Olfactory epithelium OR Olfactory mucosa) AND (Bipolar disorder OR Lithium OR Valproate OR Mania)]. Studies were included if they had used cell cultures derived from BD patients.

Results: There were 65 articles on lymphoblastoid cell lines, 14 articles on fibroblasts, 4 articles on olfactory neuronal epithelium (ONE) and 2 articles on neurons reprogrammed from induced pluripotent stem cell lines (IPSC). Several parameters have been studied, and the most replicated findings are abnormalities in calcium signaling, endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress response, mitochondrial oxidative pathway, membrane ion channels, circadian system and apoptosis related genes. These, although present in basal state, seem to be accentuated in the presence of cellular stressors (e.g. oxidative stress--rotenone; ER stress--thapsigargin), and are often reversed with in-vitro lithium.

Conclusion: Cellular modeling has proven useful in BD, and potential pathways, especially in cellular resilience related mechanisms have been identified. These findings show consistency with other study designs (genome-wide association, brain-imaging, and post-mortem brain expression). ONE cells and IPSC reprogrammed neurons represent the next generation of cell models in BD. Future studies should focus on family-based study designs and combine cell models with deep sequencing and genetic manipulations.

Keywords: Bipolar disorder; Cell model; Fibroblast; Lymphoblast; Olfactory; Pluripotent.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Apoptosis
  • Bipolar Disorder / drug therapy
  • Bipolar Disorder / genetics
  • Bipolar Disorder / metabolism*
  • Bipolar Disorder / pathology*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Ion Channels / metabolism
  • Lithium Compounds / therapeutic use
  • Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Signal Transduction
  • Valproic Acid / therapeutic use


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Ion Channels
  • Lithium Compounds
  • Valproic Acid
  • Calcium