Assessing the impact of lithium chloride on the expression of P-glycoprotein at the blood-brain barrier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


In addition to extruding drugs from the brain, P-glycoprotein (P-gp) at the blood-brain barrier (BBB) facilitates the brain-to-blood clearance of beta-amyloid (Aβ) and is down-regulated in Alzheimer's disease. Studies suggest that the mood-stabilizing drug lithium exerts a protective effect against Alzheimer's disease. Although the mechanisms underlying this effect are not fully understood, evidence suggests that lithium chloride (LiCl) increases P-gp expression in vitro, albeit at concentrations substantially outside the therapeutic window. Therefore, we investigated the effects of pharmacologically-relevant concentrations of LiCl on P-gp expression using in vitro and in vivo approaches. Swiss outbred mice administered LiCl (300 mg/kg/day, 21 days) showed no change in brain microvascular P-gp protein expression. Furthermore, P-gp transcript and protein levels were unaltered by LiCl (1.25-5 mM, 24 h) in human immortalized brain endothelial cells, while both gene and protein expression were significantly enhanced by the P-gp up-regulator, SR12813 by 1.5-fold and 2.0-fold, respectively. P-gp efflux function was also unaffected by LiCl in vitro, by measuring accumulation of the fluorescent P-gp substrate rhodamine-123. This suggests therefore that LiCl is unlikely to affect the BBB efflux of Aβ or other P-gp substrates at pharmacologically-relevant concentrations, suggesting that the Aβ-lowering effects of LiCl are unrelated to elevated BBB P-gp expression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2625–2631
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Blood-brain barrier
  • Lithium chloride
  • P-glycoprotein

Cite this