Contributions of circadian clock genes to cell survival in fibroblast models of lithium-responsive bipolar disorder

Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2023 Sep:74:1-14. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2023.04.009. Epub 2023 Apr 29.


Bipolar disorder (BD) is characterized by mood episodes, disrupted circadian rhythms and gray matter reduction in the brain. Lithium is an effective pharmacotherapy for BD, but not all patients respond to treatment. Lithium has neuroprotective properties and beneficial effects on circadian rhythms that may distinguish lithium responders (Li-R) from non-responders (Li-NR). The circadian clock regulates molecular pathways involved in apoptosis and cell survival, but how this overlap impacts BD and/or lithium responsiveness is unknown. In primary fibroblasts from Li-R/Li-NR BD patients and controls, we found patterns of co-expression among circadian clock and cell survival genes that distinguished BD vs. control, and Li-R vs. Li-NR cells. In cellular models of apoptosis using staurosporine (STS), lithium preferentially protected fibroblasts against apoptosis in BD vs. control samples, regardless of Li-R/Li-NR status. When examining the effects of lithium treatment of cells in vitro, caspase activation by lithium correlated with period alteration, but the relationship differed in control, Li-R and Li-NR samples. Knockdown of Per1 and Per3 in mouse fibroblasts altered caspase activity, cell death and circadian rhythms in an opposite manner. In BD cells, genetic variation in PER1 and PER3 predicted sensitivity to apoptosis in a manner consistent with knockdown studies. We conclude that distinct patterns of coordination between circadian clock and cell survival genes in BD may help predict lithium response.

Keywords: Apoptosis; Bipolar disorder; Circadian rhythm; Lithium.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bipolar Disorder* / drug therapy
  • Bipolar Disorder* / genetics
  • Bipolar Disorder* / metabolism
  • Caspases / pharmacology
  • Caspases / therapeutic use
  • Cell Survival
  • Circadian Clocks* / genetics
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Fibroblasts
  • Lithium / pharmacology
  • Lithium / therapeutic use
  • Mice


  • Lithium
  • Caspases