Lithium protects ethanol-induced neuronal apoptosis

Jin Zhong, Xianlin Yang, Weiguo Yao, Weihua Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Lithium is widely used for the treatment of bipolar disorder. Recent studies have demonstrated its neuroprotective effect. Ethanol is a potent neurotoxin that is particularly harmful to the developing nervous system. In this study, we evaluated lithium's neuroprotection against ethanol-induced apoptosis. Transient exposure of infant mice to ethanol caused apoptotic cell death in brain, which was prevented significantly by administering a low dose of lithium 15 min later. In cultured cerebellar granule neurons, ethanol-induced apoptosis and activation of caspase-3/9, both of which were prevented by lithium. However, lithium's protection is not mediated by its commonly known inhibition of glycogen synthase3β, because neither ethanol nor lithium has significant effects on the phosphorylation of Akt (ser473) or GSK3β (ser9). In addition, the selective GSK-3β inhibitor SB-415286 was unable to prevent ethanol-induced apoptosis. These data suggest lithium may be used as a potential preventive measure for ethanol-induced neurological deficits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)905-910
Number of pages6
JournalBiochemical and Biophysical Research Communications
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2006


  • Alcohol
  • Apoptosis
  • GSK3β
  • Lithium
  • Neuron

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Biophysics
  • Molecular Biology

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