Lithium, one of the most effective drugs for the treatment of bipolar (manic-depressive) disorder, also has dramatic effects on morphogenesis in the early development of numerous organisms. How lithium exerts these diverse effects is unclear, but the favored hypothesis is that lithium acts through inhibition of inositol monophosphatase (IMPase). We show here that complete inhibition of IMPase has no effect on the morphogenesis of Xenopus embryos and present a different hypothesis to explain the broad action of lithium. Our results suggest that lithium acts through inhibition of glycogen synthase kinase-3j3 (GSK-313), which regulates cell fate determination in diverse organisms including Dictyostelium, Drosophila, and Xenopus. Lithium potently inhibits GSK-313 activity (Ki = 2 mM), but is not a general inhibitor of other protein kinases. In support of this hypothesis, lithium treatment phenocopies loss of GSK-3j8 function in Xenopus and Dictyostelium. These observations help explain the effect of lithium on cell-fate determination and could provide insights into the pathogenesis and treatment ofbipolar disorder.
Valproic acid is widely used to treat epilepsy and bipolar disorder and is also a potent teratogen, but its mechanisms of action in any of these settings are unknown. We report that valproic acid activates Wntdependent gene expression, similar to lithium, the mainstay of therapy for bipolar disorder. Valproic acid, however, acts through a distinct pathway that involves direct inhibition of histone deacetylase (IC 50 for HDAC1 ؍ 0.4 mM). At therapeutic levels, valproic acid mimics the histone deacetylase inhibitor trichostatin A, causing hyperacetylation of histones in cultured cells. Valproic acid, like trichostatin A, also activates transcription from diverse exogenous and endogenous promoters. Furthermore, valproic acid and trichostatin A have remarkably similar teratogenic effects in vertebrate embryos, while non-teratogenic analogues of valproic acid do not inhibit histone deacetylase and do not activate transcription. Based on these observations, we propose that inhibition of histone deacetylase provides a mechanism for valproic acid-induced birth defects and could also explain the efficacy of valproic acid in the treatment of bipolar disorder.
Alzheimer's disease is associated with increased production and aggregation of amyloid-beta (Abeta) peptides. Abeta peptides are derived from the amyloid precursor protein (APP) by sequential proteolysis, catalysed by the aspartyl protease BACE, followed by presenilin-dependent gamma-secretase cleavage. Presenilin interacts with nicastrin, APH-1 and PEN-2 (ref. 6), all of which are required for gamma-secretase function. Presenilins also interact with alpha-catenin, beta-catenin and glycogen synthase kinase-3beta (GSK-3beta), but a functional role for these proteins in gamma-secretase activity has not been established. Here we show that therapeutic concentrations of lithium, a GSK-3 inhibitor, block the production of Abeta peptides by interfering with APP cleavage at the gamma-secretase step, but do not inhibit Notch processing. Importantly, lithium also blocks the accumulation of Abeta peptides in the brains of mice that overproduce APP. The target of lithium in this setting is GSK-3alpha, which is required for maximal processing of APP. Since GSK-3 also phosphorylates tau protein, the principal component of neurofibrillary tangles, inhibition of GSK-3alpha offers a new approach to reduce the formation of both amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, two pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease.
Glycogen synthase kinase-3 beta (GSK-3 beta/zeste-white-3/shaggy) is a negative regulator of the wnt signaling pathway which plays a central role in the development of invertebrates and vertebrates; loss of function and dominant negative mutations in GSK-3 beta lead to activation of the wnt pathway in Drosophila and Xenopus. We now provide evidence that lithium activates downstream components of the wnt signaling pathway in vivo, leading to accumulation of beta-catenin protein. Our data indicate that this activation of the wnt pathway is a consequence of inhibition of GSK-3 beta by lithium. Using a novel assay for GSK-3 beta in oocytes, we show that lithium inhibits GSK-3 beta from species as diverse as Dictyostelium discoideum and Xenopus laevis, providing a biochemical mechanism for the action of lithium on the development of these organisms. Lithium treatment also leads to activation of an AP-1-luciferase reporter in Xenopus embryos, consistent with previous observations that GSK-3 beta inhibits c-jun activity. Activation of the wnt pathway with a dominant negative form of GSK-3 beta is inhibited by myo-inositol, similar to the previously described effect of coinjecting myo-inositol with lithium. The mechanism by which myo-inositol inhibits both dominant negative GSK-3 beta and lithium remains uncertain.
Lithium is widely used to treat bipolar disorder, but its mechanism of action in this disorder is unknown. Several molecular targets of lithium have been identified, but these putative targets have not been shown to be responsible for the behavioral effects of lithium in vivo. A robust model for the effects of chronic lithium on behavior in mice would greatly facilitate the characterization of lithium action. We describe behaviors in mice that are robustly affected by chronic lithium. Remarkably, these lithium-sensitive behaviors are also observed in mice lacking one copy of the gene encoding glycogen synthase kinase-3␤ (Gsk-3␤), a well established direct target of lithium. In addition, chronic lithium induces molecular changes consistent with inhibition of GSK-3 within regions of the brain that are paralleled in Gsk-3␤ ϩ/Ϫ heterozygous mice. We also show that lithium therapy activates Wnt signaling in vivo, as measured by increased Wntdependent gene expression in the amygdala, hippocampus, and hypothalamus. These observations support a central role for GSK-3␤ in mediating behavioral responses to lithium.
Lithium is commonly used to treat bipolar disorder, which is associated with altered circadian rhythm. Lithium is a potent inhibitor of glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3), which regulates circadian rhythm in several organisms. In experiments with cultured cells, we show here that GSK3beta phosphorylates and stabilizes the orphan nuclear receptor Rev-erbalpha, a negative component of the circadian clock. Lithium treatment of cells leads to rapid proteasomal degradation of Rev-erbalpha and activation of clock gene Bmal1. A form of Rev-erbalpha that is insensitive to lithium interferes with the expression of circadian genes. Control of Rev-erbalpha protein stability is thus a critical component of the peripheral clock and a biological target of lithium therapy.
Stem cells reside in specialized microenvironments or “niches” which regulate their function. In vitro studies employing hypoxic culture conditions (≤ 5% O2) have revealed strong regulatory links between O2 availability and stem/precursor cell functions1–6. Therefore, while some stem cells are perivascular, others may occupy hypoxic niches and be regulated by O2 gradients. However, the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Here, we show that Hypoxia Inducible Factor-1α (HIF-1α), a principal mediator of hypoxic adaptations, modulates Wnt/β-catenin signalling in hypoxic embryonic stem (ES) cells by enhancing β-catenin activation and expression of downstream effectors LEF-1 and TCF-1. This regulation extends to primary cells, including isolated neural stem cells (NSCs), and is not observed in differentiated cells. In vivo, Wnt/β-catenin activity is closely associated with low O2 regions in the subgranular zone (SGZ) of the hippocampus, a key NSC niche7. Hif-1α deletion impairs hippocampal Wnt-dependent processes, including NSC proliferation, differentiation and neuronal maturation. This decline correlates with reduced Wnt/β-catenin signalling in the SGZ. Therefore, O2 availability may have a direct role in stem cell regulation via HIF-1α modulation of Wnt/β-catenin signalling.
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