The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology

Effect of lithium and lithium withdrawal on potassium-evoked dopamine release and tyrosine hydroxylase expression in the rat

Lindsey Ferrie a1, Allan H. Young a1 and Richard McQuade a1c1
a1 Psychobiology Research Group, School of Neurology, Neurobiology and Psychiatry, The Medical School, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

Article author query
ferrie l   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
h. young a   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
mcquade r   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


The mood stabilizer lithium is used successfully in the treatment of bipolar affective disorder. However, treatment compliance is frequently poor and sudden withdrawal from lithium therapy is associated with a significantly increased risk of rebound mania. In this study we have used rodents to identify neurobiological changes in dopamine function occurring during chronic lithium treatment and withdrawal from chronic lithium treatment. Rats were maintained for 28 d on a lithium diet or a control diet. A subgroup had their lithium diet substituted with a control diet from day 25 of the treatment period. In-vivo microdialysis was used to study both basal dopamine release and potassium-evoked dopamine released in the shell of the nucleus accumbens. In-situ hybridization histochemistry was used to study the abundance of mRNA coding for dopamine's synthetic enzyme, tyrosine hydroxylase in the ventral tegmental area. Basal dopamine levels did not differ across any of the three treatment groups. However, the potassium-evoked dopamine release was significantly attenuated in lithium and lithium-withdrawn rats compared to control rats. Tyrosine hydroxylase mRNA abundance in the ventral tegmental area did not differ between any of the three treatment groups. These data suggest that decreased dopamine release may mediate the mood stabilizing action of lithium. However, in this paradigm a rebound increase in dopamine release was not found after withdrawal from lithium treatment.

(Received June 21 2005)
(Reviewed August 9 2005)
(Revised August 15 2005)
(Accepted August 24 2005)
(Published Online November 29 2005)

Key Words: Dopamine; in vivo microdialysis; lithium; lithium withdrawal; nucleus accumbens.

c1 Psychobiology Research Group, School of Neurology, Neurobiology and Psychiatry, The Medical School, Framlington Place, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4HH, UK. Tel.: 0191 222 6761 Fax: 0191 222 6162 E-mail:

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