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J Neurochem. 2000 Oct;75(4):1729-34.

Enhancement of hippocampal neurogenesis by lithium.

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Laboratory of Molecular Pathophysiology, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan 48201, USA.


Increasing evidence suggests that mood disorders are associated with a reduction in regional CNS volume and neuronal and glial cell atrophy or loss. Lithium, a mainstay in the treatment of mood disorders, has recently been demonstrated to robustly increase the levels of the cytoprotective B-cell lymphoma protein-2 (bcl-2) in areas of rodent brain and in cultured cells. In view of bcl-2's antiapoptotic and neurotrophic effects, the present study was undertaken to determine if lithium affects neurogenesis in the adult rodent hippocampus. Mice were chronically treated with lithium, and 5-bromo-2-deoxyuridine (BrdU) labeling of dividing cells was conducted over 12 days. Immunohistochemical analysis was undertaken 1 day after the last injection, and three-dimensional stereological cell counting revealed that lithium produced a significant 25% increase in the BrdU-labeled cells in the dentate gyrus. Double-labeling immunofluorescence studies were undertaken to co-localize BrdU-positive cells with neuron-specific nuclear protein and showed that approximately 65% of the cells were double-labeled. These results add to the growing body of evidence suggesting that mood stabilizers and antidepressants exert neurotrophic effects and may therefore be of use in the long-term treatment of other neuropsychiatric disorders.

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