Metabonomic analysis identifies molecular changes associated with the pathophysiology and drug treatment of bipolar disorder

M. J. Lan, G. A. McLoughlin, J. L. Griffin, T. M. Tsang, J. T.J. Huang, P. Yuan, H. Manji, E. Holmes, S. Bahn

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    152 Citations (Scopus)


    Bipolar affective disorder is a severe and debilitating psychiatric condition characterized by the alternating mood states of mania and depression. Both the molecular pathophysiology of the disorder and the mechanism of action of the mainstays of its treatment remain largely unknown. Here, 1H NMR spectroscopy-based metabonomic analysis was performed to identify molecular changes in post-mortem brain tissue (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) of patients with a history of bipolar disorder. The observed changes were then compared to metabolic alterations identified in rat brain following chronic oral treatment with either lithium or valproate. This is the first study to use 1H NMR spectroscopy to study post-mortem bipolar human brain tissue, and it is the first to compare changes in disease brain with changes induced in rat brain following mood stabilizer treatment. Several metabolites were found to be concordantly altered in both the animal and human tissues. Glutamate levels were increased in post-mortem bipolar brain, while the glutamate/glutamine ratio was decreased following valproate treatment, and γ-aminobutyric acid levels were increased after lithium treatment, suggesting that the balance of excitatory/inhibitory neurotransmission is central to the disorder. Both creatine and myo-inositol were increased in the post-mortem brain but depleted with the medications. Lastly, the level of N-acetyl aspartate, a clinically important metabolic marker of neuronal viability, was found to be unchanged following chronic mood stabilizer treatment. These findings promise to provide new insight into the pathophysiology of bipolar disorder and may be used to direct research into novel therapeutic strategies.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)269-279
    Number of pages11
    JournalMolecular Psychiatry
    Issue number3
    Early online date5 Feb 2008
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2009


    • γ-aminobutyric acid
    • Bipolar disorder
    • Creatine
    • Glutamic acid
    • Lithium
    • Valproic acid

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Molecular Biology
    • Psychiatry and Mental health
    • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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