Purpose: Lithium is an essential treatment in bipolar disorder and treatment-resistant depression; however, its use has been limited by concerns regarding its renal adverse effects. An improved understanding of potential molecular mechanisms can help develop prevention and treatment strategies for lithium-associated renal disease.
Methods: We conducted a systematic literature search using MEDLINE, Embase, and PsychINFO including English-language original research articles published prior to November 2015 that specifically investigated lithium's effects on nephrogenic diabetes insipidus (NDI) and chronic kidney disease (CKD), using molecular markers.
Results: From a total of 3510 records, 71 pre-clinical studies and two relevant clinical studies were identified. Molecular alterations were reported in calcium signaling, inositol monophosphate, extracellular-regulated, prostaglandin, sodium/solute transport, G-protein-coupled receptors, nitric oxide, vasopressin/aquaporin, and inflammation-related pathways in lithium-associated renal disease. The majority of studies found that these mechanisms were implicated in NDI, while few studies had examined CKD.
Discussion: Future studies will have to focus on (1) validating the present findings in human subjects and (2) examining CKD, which is the most clinically relevant lithium-associated renal effect. This will improve our understanding of lithium's biological effects, as well as inform a personalized medicine approach, which could lead to safer lithium prescribing and less renal adverse events.
Keywords: Chronic kidney disease; Lithium; Molecular mechanisms; Nephrogenic diabetes insipidus; Systematic review.