Lithium is the first-line therapy for bipolar disorder. However, its therapeutic target remains controversial. Candidates include inositol monophosphatases, glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3), and a β-arrestin-2/AKT/protein phosphatase 2A (β-arrestin-2/AKT/PP2A) complex that is known to be required for lithium-sensitive behaviors. Defining the direct target(s) is critical for the development of new therapies and for elucidating the molecular pathogenesis of this major psychiatric disorder. Here, we show what we believe to be a new link between GSK-3 and the β-arrestin-2 complex in mice and propose an integrated mechanism that accounts for the effects of lithium on multiple behaviors. GSK-3β (Gsk3b) overexpression reversed behavioral defects observed in lithium-treated mice and similar behaviors observed in Gsk3b+/– mice. Furthermore, immunoprecipitation of striatial tissue from WT mice revealed that lithium disrupted the β-arrestin-2/Akt/PP2A complex by directly inhibiting GSK-3. GSK-3 inhibitors or loss of one copy of the Gsk3b gene reduced β-arrestin-2/Akt/PP2A complex formation in mice, while overexpression of Gsk3b restored complex formation in lithium-treated mice. Thus, GSK-3 regulates the stability of the β-arrestin-2/Akt/PP2A complex, and lithium disrupts the complex through direct inhibition of GSK-3. We believe these findings reveal a new role for GSK-3 within the β-arrestin complex and demonstrate that GSK-3 is a critical target of lithium in mammalian behaviors.
W. Timothy O’Brien, Jian Huang, Roberto Buccafusca, Julie Garskof, Alexander J. Valvezan, Gerard T. Berry, Peter S. Klein