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ACS Chem Neurosci. 2014 Jun 18;5(6):477-83. doi: 10.1021/cn500077p. Epub 2014 May 15.

Lithium: a promising treatment for fragile X syndrome.

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  • 1Section on Neuroadaptation and Protein Metabolism, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, United States.


Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is an inherited disorder that results in intellectual disability and a characteristic behavioral profile that includes autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, sensory hypersensitivity, hyperarousal, and anxiety. The epigenetic silencing of FMR1 and the consequent absence of its protein product, FMRP, is the most common cause of fragile X. The development of animal models of fragile X syndrome 20 years ago has produced a considerable increase in our understanding of the consequences of the absence of FMRP on the structure and function of the nervous system. Some of the insights gained have led to proposals of treatment strategies that are based on cellular and molecular changes observed in animals lacking FMRP. One such proposal is treatment with lithium, a drug with a long history of clinical efficacy in psychiatry and a drug with newly described uses in degenerative disorders of the nervous system. Lithium treatment has been studied extensively in both mouse and fruit fly models of FXS, and it has been shown to reverse numerous behavioral, physiological, cellular, and molecular phenotypes. A report of a pilot clinical trial on a limited number of adult FXS patients indicated that measurable improvements in behavior and function were seen after 2 months of lithium treatment. A double-blind clinical trial of lithium treatment in FXS patients is now needed.


FMR1; FMRP; Fragile X syndrome; autism; dendritic spines; glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3); intellectual disability

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