Regulation of Akt and glycogen synthase kinase-3β phosphorylation by sodium valproate and lithium

Patrizia De Sarno, Xiaohua Li, Richard S. Jope

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

401 Scopus citations


This study tested if sodium valproate or lithium, two agents used to treat bipolar mood disorder, altered the regulatory phosphorylations of Akt or glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK3β) in human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells. Treatment with sodium valproate caused a gradual but relatively large increase in the activation-associated phosphorylation of Akt on Ser-473, and a similarly gradual but more modest increase in the inhibition-associated phosphorylation of GSK3β on Ser-9. Two other inhibitors of histone deacetylase, a recently identified target of sodium valproate, also caused gradual increases in the phosphorylation of Akt and GSK3β. Lithium treatment increased the Ser-9 phosphorylation of GSK3β both in cells and in mouse brain after chronic administration, but did not alter the phosphorylation of Akt. These results identify novel effects of sodium valproate on the Akt/GSK3β signaling pathway, indicating that histone deacetylase inhibition is linked to activation of Akt, and show that two anti-bipolar agents have a common action, the increased inhibitory phosphorylation of Ser-9-GSK3β. The latter finding, along with previous reports that lithium directly inhibits GSK3β, reveals the possibly unique situation where a single target, GSK3β, is inhibited by two independent mechanisms, directly and by phosphorylation following lithium administration, and further, that two mood stabilizers have inhibitory effects on GSK3β.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1158-1164
Number of pages7
Issue number7
StatePublished - Dec 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Akt
  • Bipolar disorder
  • GSK3β
  • Histone deacetylase inhibitor
  • Lithium
  • Valproate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Drug Discovery
  • Pharmacology


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