Send to

Choose Destination
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Apr 1;111(13):5018-23. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1316425111. Epub 2014 Mar 17.

Dual regulation of G proteins and the G-protein-activated K+ channels by lithium.

Author information

Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel and Department of Integrative Biology and Pharmacology, University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston, TX 77030.


Lithium (Li(+)) is widely used to treat bipolar disorder (BPD). Cellular targets of Li(+), such as glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK3β) and G proteins, have long been implicated in BPD etiology; however, recent genetic studies link BPD to other proteins, particularly ion channels. Li(+) affects neuronal excitability, but the underlying mechanisms and the relevance to putative BPD targets are unknown. We discovered a dual regulation of G protein-gated K(+) (GIRK) channels by Li(+), and identified the underlying molecular mechanisms. In hippocampal neurons, therapeutic doses of Li(+) (1-2 mM) increased GIRK basal current (Ibasal) but attenuated neurotransmitter-evoked GIRK currents (Ievoked) mediated by Gi/o-coupled G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). Molecular mechanisms of these regulations were studied with heterologously expressed GIRK1/2. In excised membrane patches, Li(+) increased Ibasal but reduced GPCR-induced GIRK currents. Both regulations were membrane-delimited and G protein-dependent, requiring both Gα and Gβγ subunits. Li(+) did not impair direct activation of GIRK channels by Gβγ, suggesting that inhibition of Ievoked results from an action of Li(+) on Gα, probably through inhibition of GTP-GDP exchange. In direct binding studies, Li(+) promoted GPCR-independent dissociation of Gαi(GDP) from Gβγ by a Mg(2+)-independent mechanism. This previously unknown Li(+) action on G proteins explains the second effect of Li(+), the enhancement of GIRK's Ibasal. The dual effect of Li(+) on GIRK may profoundly regulate the inhibitory effects of neurotransmitters acting via GIRK channels. Our findings link between Li(+), neuronal excitability, and both cellular and genetic targets of BPD: GPCRs, G proteins, and ion channels.


drug; psychiatric disorder

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center