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J Biol Chem. 2007 Jun 22;282(25):18057-68. Epub 2007 May 4.

Lithium desensitizes brain mitochondria to calcium, antagonizes permeability transition, and diminishes cytochrome C release.

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Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and Stark Neuroscience Research Institute, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana 46202, USA.


Among the numerous effects of lithium on intracellular targets, its possible action on mitochondria remains poorly explored. In the experiments with suspension of isolated brain mitochondria, replacement of KCl by LiCl suppressed mitochondrial swelling, depolarization, and a release of cytochrome c induced by a single Ca2+ bolus. Li+ robustly protected individual brain mitochondria loaded with rhodamine 123 against Ca2+-induced depolarization. In the experiments with slow calcium infusion, replacement of KCl by LiCl in the incubation medium increased resilience of synaptic and nonsynaptic brain mitochondria as well as resilience of liver and heart mitochondria to the deleterious effect of Ca2+. In LiCl medium, mitochondria accumulated larger amounts of Ca2+ before they lost the ability to sequester Ca2+. However, lithium appeared to be ineffective if mitochondria were challenged by Sr2+ instead of Ca2+. Cyclosporin A, sanglifehrin A, and Mg2+, inhibitors of the mitochondrial permeability transition (mPT), increased mitochondrial Ca2+ capacity in KCl medium but failed to do so in LiCl medium. This suggests that the mPT might be a common target for Li+ and mPT inhibitors. In addition, lithium protected mitochondria against high Ca2+ in the presence of ATP, where cyclosporin A was reported to be ineffective. SB216763 and SB415286, inhibitors of glycogen synthase kinase-3beta, which is implicated in regulating reactive oxygen species-induced mPT in cardiac mitochondria, did not increase Ca2+ capacity of brain mitochondria. Altogether, these findings suggest that Li+ desensitizes mitochondria to elevated Ca2+ and diminishes cytochrome c release from brain mitochondria by antagonizing the Ca2+-induced mPT.

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