Insulin signaling as a therapeutic mechanism of lithium in bipolar disorder

Iain H. Campbell, Harry Campbell, Daniel J. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper, we propose that lithium may exert its therapeutic effect in bipolar disorder by acting on insulin signaling pathways. Specifically, we assess the importance of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/Protein Kinase B (PI3K/Akt) insulin signaling pathway and we assess how the action of lithium on both glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK3) and the phosphatidylinositol cycle may lead to mood stabilization mediated by PI3K/Akt insulin signaling. We also highlight evidence that several other actions of lithium (including effects on Akt, Protein kinase C (PKC), and sodium myo-inositol transporters) are putative mediators of insulin signaling. This novel mode of action of lithium is consistent with an emerging consensus that energy dysregulation represents a core deficit in bipolar disorder. It may also provide context for the significant co-morbidity between bipolar disorder, type 2 diabetes, and other forms of metabolic illness characterized by impaired glucose metabolism. It is suggested that developments in assessing neuronal insulin signaling using extracellular vesicles would allow for this hypothesis to be tested in bipolar disorder patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article number350
Number of pages8
JournalTranslational Psychiatry
Issue number1
Early online date29 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 29 Aug 2022


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