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Possible Genetic Predictor for Response to Lithium Augmentation in Depressed Patients


As in most fields of medicine, psychiatry researchers are working to identify specific types of patients, through their individual genetic variations, that may better benefit from particular drugs or combinations of drugs than other patients. A new study, published in Biological Psychiatry’s December 1st issue, investigated whether depressed patients with a particular genetic variation would better respond to the addition of lithium to their treatment regimen, as opposed to an antidepressant-only treatment.

Adli and colleagues recruited acutely depressed patients who were unresponsive to an antidepressant-only treatment, and augmented their therapy with lithium, the most common medication used to treat bipolar disorder. They then genotyped these patients for variations in the GSK3B gene. This gene codes for the enzyme glycogen synthase kinase 3-beta, which is inhibited by lithium. Mazda Adli, M.D., corresponding author on the project, explains their findings: “[We] found that antidepressant non-responders with depression show a significantly better response to a subsequent lithium augmentation if they carry at least one C-allele as opposed those patients carrying two T-alleles, which is in line with the previous findings regarding this genetic polymorphism.” In other words, patients who carried a specific genetic variation, the C-allele, were more likely to get better with the addition of lithium to their treatment than patients with other variations of the GSK3B gene.

John H. Krystal, M.D., Editor of Biological Psychiatry and affiliated with both Yale University School of Medicine and the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, comments, “Over the past several years, preclinical studies have suggested that GSK3-beta was a key molecular switch related to the clinical effectiveness of lithium. This hypothesis is supported by this report from Adli et al. They find that variation in the GSK3-beta gene is related to lithium response in patients, further implicating GSK3-beta as a potential target for antidepressant treatment.” Dr. Adli adds, “If replicable, the findings of this study could be an important step towards an individually tailored antidepressive treatment plan for patients with depression as well as for the identification of possible new drug targets.”

Notes to Editors:
The article is “Response to Lithium Augmentation in Depression is Associated with the Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3-Beta −50T/C Single Nucleotide Polymorphism” by Mazda Adli, Dorothea L. Hollinde, Thomas Stamm, Katja Wiethoff, Martina Tsahuridu, Julia Kirchheiner, Andreas Heinz and Michael Bauer. Drs. Adli, Hollinde, Stamm, Wiethoff, and Heinz are affiliated with the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, while Dr. Tsahuridu is affiliated with the Department of Clinical Pharmacology, at the Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Campus Charité Mitte in Berlin, Germany. Dr. Tsahuridu is also with the Department of Psychosomatics and Psychotherapeutic Medicine at the University of Bochum in Dortmund, Germany. Dr. Kirchheiner is affiliated with the Institute of Pharmacology of Natural Products and Clinical Pharmacology, University of Ulm, Ulm, Germany. Dr. Bauer is with the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Carl Gustav Carus University in Dresden, Germany. The article appears in Biological Psychiatry, Volume 62, Issue 11 (December 1, 2007), published by Elsevier.

Full text of the article mentioned above is available upon request. Contact Jayne M. Dawkins at (215) 239-3674 or to obtain a copy or to schedule an interview.

About Biological Psychiatry
This international rapid-publication journal is the official journal of the Society of Biological Psychiatry. It covers a broad range of topics in psychiatric neuroscience and therapeutics. Both basic and clinical contributions are encouraged from all disciplines and research areas relevant to the pathophysiology and treatment of major neuropsychiatric disorders. Full-length and Brief Reports of novel results, Commentaries, Case Studies of unusual significance, and Correspondence and Comments judged to be of high impact to the field are published, particularly those addressing genetic and environmental risk factors, neural circuitry and neurochemistry, and important new therapeutic approaches. Concise Reviews and Editorials that focus on topics of current research and interest are also published rapidly.

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Media Contact:
Jayne Dawkins
+1 215 239 3674


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