Bipolar disorder is a debilitating disorder of the brain with a lifetime prevalence of 1.0% for bipolar I, 1.1% for bipolar II disorder and 2.4–4.7% for subthreshold bipolar disorder. Medications, including lithium, have demonstrated efficacy in the treatment of bipolar disorder, but their molecular targets and mode of action are largely unknown. A few studies have begun to shed light on potential targets of lithium treatment that may be involved in lithium's therapeutic effect. We have recently conducted a microarray study of rat frontal cortex following chronic treatment (21 days) with lithium. Chronic treatment with lithium led to a significant (at least 1.5-fold) down-regulation of 151 genes and up-regulation of 57 genes. We discuss our results in the context of previous microarray studies involving lithium and gene-association studies to identify key genes associated with chronic lithium treatment. A number of genes associated with bipolar disorder, including Comt (catechol-O-methyltransferase), Vapa (vesicle-associated membrane protein-associated protein A), Dtnb (dystrobrevin β) and Pkd1 (polycystic kidney disease 1), were significantly altered in our microarray dataset along with genes associated with synaptic transmission, apoptosis and transport among other functions.

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