Neural progenitor cells derived from lithium responsive and non-responsive bipolar disorder patients exhibit distinct sensitivity to cell death following methamphetamine

Neuropharmacology. 2023 Mar 15:226:109410. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2022.109410. Epub 2023 Jan 4.


Bipolar disorder (BD) is characterized by manic and depressive mood episodes and loss of brain gray matter. Lithium has antimanic and neuroprotective properties, but only 30% BD patients respond to lithium pharmacotherapy. Dopamine signaling has been implicated in BD and may contribute to lithium response. Methamphetamine (METH) stimulates dopamine release and models the clinical features of mania but has never been used to study cell death in BD patient neurons. We used BD patient derived neuronal progenitor cells (NPCs) to determine whether the vulnerability to cell death differed in samples from lithium responder (Li-R) and non-responder (Li-NR) BD patients and healthy controls following METH exposure in vitro. We hypothesized that NPCs from Li-R and Li-NR would differ in vulnerability to METH, dopamine signaling and neuroprotection from lithium. Following METH, NPCs from controls and Li-NR showed significantly greater cell loss compared to Li-R. Pre-treatment of NPCs with the D1 dopamine receptor antagonist SCH 23390 reversed the neurotoxic effects of METH. In Li-R NPCs, expression of phosho-ERK1/2 was significantly increased. In Li-NR NPCs, phospho-AKT, D1 and D2 dopamine receptor proteins were significantly increased. Pre-treatment of NPCs with lithium before METH reversed the neurotoxic effects of METH in control NPCs, whereas Li-NR showed less protective benefit. Li-R cells showed decreased levels of cell death after METH and comparatively high viability, and lithium treatment did not increase viability any further. This novel NPC model of mania reveals differences in cell death that could help identify mechanisms of lithium response in BD.

Keywords: Apoptosis; Bipolar disorder; Lithium; Methamphetamine; Neuronal progenitor cell.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Antimanic Agents / pharmacology
  • Bipolar Disorder* / drug therapy
  • Dopamine / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Lithium / pharmacology
  • Lithium Compounds / pharmacology
  • Mania / drug therapy
  • Methamphetamine* / pharmacology
  • Neural Stem Cells*


  • Lithium
  • Lithium Compounds
  • Methamphetamine
  • Dopamine
  • Antimanic Agents