The small ion lithium, a very effective agent in the treatment of manic depressive patients, inhibits the mammalian enzyme inositol monophosphatase, which is proposed as the biological target for the effects of lithium. In this study we investigated Dictyostelium discoideum inositol monophosphatase activity. Partial purification of the proteins in the soluble cell fraction using anion-exchange chromatography revealed the presence of at least three enzyme activities capable of degrading inositol monophosphate isomers. The first activity was similar to the monophosphatase found in mammalian cells, as it degraded Ins(4)P, Ins(1)P and to a lesser extent Ins(3)P, was dependent on MgCl2 and inhibited by LiCl in a non-competitive manner. The second enzyme activity was specific for Ins(4)P; the enzyme activity was not dependent on MgCl2 and not inhibited by LiCl. The third monophosphatase activity degraded especially Ins(3)P, but also Ins(4)P and Ins(1)P; increasing concentrations of MgCl2 inhibited this enzyme activity, whereas LiCl had no effect. In vivo, LiCl induces a reduction of inositol levels by about 20%. In [3H]inositol-labelled cells LiCl causes a 6-fold increase in the radioactivity of [3H]Ins(1)P, a doubling of [3H]Ins(4)P and a slight decrease in the radioactivity in [3H]Ins(3)P. These data indicate that the biological effects of lithium in Dictyostelium are not due to depletion of the inositol pool by inhibition of inositol monophosphatase activity.

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