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Life Sci. 1999;64(20):1793-802.

Lithium administration affects gene expression of thyroid hormone receptors in rat brain.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19104, USA.


Even though lithium has received wide attention in the treatment of manic depressive illness, the mechanisms underlying its mood stabilizing effects are not understood. Lithium is known to interact with the thyroid axis and causes hypothyroidism in a subgroup of patients, which compromises its mood stabilizing effects. Since lithium was recently reported to alter thyroid hormone metabolism in the rat brain, the present study investigated whether these effects were mediated through regulation of thyroid hormone receptor (THR) gene expression. Adult male euthyroid rats were either given a diet containing 0.25% lithium or one without lithium for 14 days. Rats were sacrificed in the evening and RNA was isolated from different brain regions to quantitate the isoform specific mRNAs of THRs. Following 14 days of lithium treatment, THR alpha1 mRNA levels were increased in the cortex and decreased in hypothalamus; THR alpha2 mRNA levels were increased in the cortex and THR beta mRNA levels were decreased in the hypothalamus. No significant difference in the expression of these THR isoforms was observed in the hippocampus or cerebellum. Thus, chronic lithium treatment appeared to regulate THR gene expression in a subtype and region specific manner in the rat brain. It remains to be determined whether the observed effects of lithium on THR gene expression are related to its therapeutic efficacy in the treatment of bipolar disorder.

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