Astroglial Connexin43 as a Potential Target for a Mood Stabiliser

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Dec 30;22(1):339. doi: 10.3390/ijms22010339.


Mood disorders remain a major public health concern worldwide. Monoaminergic hypotheses of pathophysiology of bipolar and major depressive disorders have led to the development of monoamine transporter-inhibiting antidepressants for the treatment of major depression and have contributed to the expanded indications of atypical antipsychotics for the treatment of bipolar disorders. In spite of psychopharmacological progress, current pharmacotherapy according to the monoaminergic hypothesis alone is insufficient to improve or prevent mood disorders. Recent approval of esketamine for treatment of treatment-resistant depression has attracted attention in psychopharmacology as a glutamatergic hypothesis of the pathophysiology of mood disorders. On the other hand, in the last decade, accumulated findings regarding the pathomechanisms of mood disorders emphasised that functional abnormalities of tripartite synaptic transmission play important roles in the pathophysiology of mood disorders. At first glance, the enhancement of astroglial connexin seems to contribute to antidepressant and mood-stabilising effects, but in reality, antidepressive and mood-stabilising actions are mediated by more complicated interactions associated with the astroglial gap junction and hemichannel. Indeed, several depressive mood-inducing stress stimulations suppress connexin43 expression and astroglial gap junction function, but enhance astroglial hemichannel activity. On the other hand, monoamine transporter-inhibiting antidepressants suppress astroglial hemichannel activity and enhance astroglial gap junction function, whereas several non-antidepressant mood stabilisers activate astroglial hemichannel activity. Based on preclinical findings, in this review, we summarise the effects of antidepressants, mood-stabilising antipsychotics, and anticonvulsants on astroglial connexin, and then, to establish a novel strategy for treatment of mood disorders, we reveal the current progress in psychopharmacology, changing the question from "what has been revealed?" to "what should be clarified?".

Keywords: astrocytes; bipolar disorder; connexin; depression; mood stabiliser; tripartite synaptic transmission.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents / pharmacology*
  • Astrocytes / drug effects
  • Astrocytes / metabolism*
  • Connexin 43 / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Mood Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Mood Disorders / metabolism
  • Mood Disorders / pathology


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Connexin 43