Lithium was recently demonstrated to inhibit the coupling of both muscarinic cholinergic receptors and β-adrenergic receptors to pertussis toxin-sensitive and cholera toxin-sensitive G proteins, respectively, thus suggesting alteration of the function of G protein by lithium, as the single site for both the antimanic and antidepressant effects of this drug. One of the most puzzling aspects of the ability of lithium to ameliorate the manic-depressive condition, is its relatively selective action upon the central nervous system (CNS). In the present study, it was shown that lithium selectively attenuated the function of Gs proteins in the CNS, assessed through isoproterenol-induced increases in the binding of guanosine triphosphate (GTP) to these proteins. Therapeutic concentrations of lithium (1-1.5 M in vitro) inhibited the function of Gs protein in the cerebral cortex of the rat, while 4- to 6-fold larger concentrations of lithium were required to alter the function of Gs protein equivalently in the cardiac ventricles of the rat. Chronic administration of lithium via rat chow, containing lithium carbonate, to rats totally abolished the effect of isoproterenol on the binding of GTP in the CNS but did not affect the function of peripheral cardiac Gs protein. The lithium-selective action on the function of Gs protein in the CNS may stem from the heterogeneity of the αs subunit proteins: in the heart, the major species is a 45 kDa molecule, while in the brain, a 52 kDa molecular weight species predominates. The heterogeneity in αs subunits may thus be the biochemical basis for the selective action of lithium on the CNS and for the scarcity of peripheral side effects.
- G proteins
- β-adrenergic receptor