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Concept: GSK-3


The restoration of dentine lost in deep caries lesions in teeth is a routine and common treatment that involves the use of inorganic cements based on calcium or silicon-based mineral aggregates. Such cements remain in the tooth and fail to degrade and thus normal mineral volume is never completely restored. Here we describe a novel, biological approach to dentine restoration that stimulates the natural formation of reparative dentine via the mobilisation of resident stem cells in the tooth pulp. Biodegradable, clinically-approved collagen sponges are used to deliver low doses of small molecule glycogen synthase kinase (GSK-3) antagonists that promote the natural processes of reparative dentine formation to completely restore dentine. Since the carrier sponge is degraded over time, dentine replaces the degraded sponge leading to a complete, effective natural repair. This simple, rapid natural tooth repair process could thus potentially provide a new approach to clinical tooth restoration.

Concepts: Enzyme, Animal, Teeth, Tooth, Dental caries, Portland cement, GSK-3, GSK3B


The quest to extend healthspan via pharmacological means is becoming increasingly urgent, both from a health and economic perspective. Here we show that lithium, a drug approved for human use, promotes longevity and healthspan. We demonstrate that lithium extends lifespan in female and male Drosophila, when administered throughout adulthood or only later in life. The life-extending mechanism involves the inhibition of glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3) and activation of the transcription factor nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor (NRF-2). Combining genetic loss of the NRF-2 repressor Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 (Keap1) with lithium treatment revealed that high levels of NRF-2 activation conferred stress resistance, while low levels additionally promoted longevity. The discovery of GSK-3 as a therapeutic target for aging will likely lead to more effective treatments that can modulate mammalian aging and further improve health in later life.

Concepts: DNA, Genetics, Gene expression, Human, Transcription, Economics, Lithium pharmacology, GSK-3


The Ser and Thr kinase AKT, also known as protein kinase B (PKB), was discovered 25 years ago and has been the focus of tens of thousands of studies in diverse fields of biology and medicine. There have been many advances in our knowledge of the upstream regulatory inputs into AKT, key multifunctional downstream signaling nodes (GSK3, FoxO, mTORC1), which greatly expand the functional repertoire of AKT, and the complex circuitry of this dynamically branching and looping signaling network that is ubiquitous to nearly every cell in our body. Mouse and human genetic studies have also revealed physiological roles for the AKT network in nearly every organ system. Our comprehension of AKT regulation and functions is particularly important given the consequences of AKT dysfunction in diverse pathological settings, including developmental and overgrowth syndromes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, inflammatory and autoimmune disorders, and neurological disorders. There has also been much progress in developing AKT-selective small molecule inhibitors. Improved understanding of the molecular wiring of the AKT signaling network continues to make an impact that cuts across most disciplines of the biomedical sciences.

Concepts: Signal transduction, Biology, Insulin, Diabetes mellitus type 2, Diabetes mellitus, Protein kinases, AKT, GSK-3


After decades of research, the mechanism of action of lithium in preventing recurrences of bipolar disorder remains only partially understood. Lithium research is complicated by the absence of suitable animal models of bipolar disorder and by having to rely on in vitro studies of peripheral tissues. A number of distinct hypotheses emerged over the years, but none has been conclusively supported or rejected. The common theme emerging from pharmacological and genetic studies is that lithium affects multiple steps in cellular signaling, usually enhancing basal and inhibiting stimulated activities. Some of the key nodes of these regulatory networks include GSK3 (glycogen synthase kinase 3), CREB (cAMP response element-binding protein) and Na(+)-K(+) ATPase. Genetic and pharmacogenetic studies are starting to generate promising findings, but remain limited by small sample sizes. As full responders to lithium seem to represent a unique clinical population, there is inherent value and need for studies of lithium responders. Such studies will be an opportunity to uncover specific effects of lithium in those individuals who clearly benefit from the treatment.Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication, 17 February 2015; doi:10.1038/mp.2015.4.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Genetics, Enzyme, Sample size, In vitro, Bipolar disorder, Lithium pharmacology, GSK-3


The enzymes 5-lipoxygenase (5-LO) and glycogen synthase kinase (GSK)-3 represent promising drug targets in the treatment of inflammation. We made use of the bisindole core of indirubin, present in GSK-3 inhibitors, to innovatively target 5-LO at the ATP-binding site for the design of dual 5-LO/GSK-3 inhibitors. Evaluation of substituted indirubin derivatives led to the identification of (3Z)-6-bromo-3-[(3E)-3-hydroxyiminoindolin-2-ylidene]indolin-2-one (15) as a potent, direct, and reversible 5-LO inhibitor (IC50 = 1.5 µM), with comparable cellular effectiveness on 5-LO and GSK-3. Together, we present indirubins as novel chemotypes for the development of 5-LO inhibitors, the interference with the ATP-binding site as a novel strategy for 5-LO targeting, and dual 5-LO/GSK-3 inhibition as an unconventional and promising concept for anti-inflammatory intervention.

Concepts: Enzyme, Enzyme inhibitor, Inhibitor, Xanthine oxidase inhibitor, Enzymes, Target Corporation, GSK-3, GSK3B


Cognitive deficits are common in patients with bipolar disorder (BD) in remission and may be associated with glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3) activity, which is inhibited by lithium. GSK-3 may be a relevant treatment target for interventions tailored at cognitive disturbances in BD but the relation between GSK-3 activity, cognition and lithium treatment is unknown. We therefore investigated the possible association between GSK-3 activity and cognition and whether lithium treatment moderates this association in patients with BD. In a prospective 6-12 month follow-up study, GSK- 3β activity in peripheral blood mononuclear cells was measured concurrently with cognitive performance assessed using a comprehensive test battery in 27 patients with BD-I in early and late remission following a manic or mixed episode. The GSK-3β activity, measured as serine-9 phosphorylated GSK-3β (pGSK-3β) and the GSK-3β ratio (serine-9-pGSK-3β /total GSK-3β), was negatively associated with sustained attention (p = 0.009 and p = 0.042, respectively), but not with other cognitive domains or global cognition. A crossover interaction between lithium treatment and the GSK activity was observed, indicating that lower pGSK-3β levels (p = 0.015) and GSK ratio (p = 0.010) were associated with better global cognition in lithium users whereas the opposite association was observed in non-lithium treated patients. Findings were not statistically significant after Bonferroni correction. In conclusion, cognitive functioning may be associated with GSK-3 activity in patients with BD-I and lithium treatment may modulate this relationship. Future studies in larger sample sizes are warranted to confirm these associations.

Concepts: Cognition, Bipolar disorder, PBMC, Lithium pharmacology, Bipolar I disorder, Quetiapine, Bipolar spectrum, GSK-3


Most living organisms maintain cell autonomous circadian clocks that synchronize critical biological functions with daily environmental cycles. In mammals, the circadian clock is regulated by inputs from signaling pathways including glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3). The drug lithium has actions on GSK3, and also on inositol metabolism. While it is suspected that lithium’s inhibition of GSK3 causes rhythm changes, it is not known if inositol polyphosphates can also affect the circadian clock. We examined whether the signaling molecule inositol hexaphosphate (IP6) has effects on circadian rhythms. Using a bioluminescent reporter (Per2::luc) to measure circadian rhythms, we determined that IP6 increased rhythm amplitude and shortened period in NIH3T3 cells. The IP6 effect on amplitude was attenuated by selective siRNA knockdown of GSK3B and pharmacological blockade of AKT kinase. However, unlike lithium, IP6 did not induce serine-9 phosphorylation of GSK3B. The synthesis of IP6 involves the enzymes inositol polyphosphate multikinase (IPMK) and inositol pentakisphosphate 2-kinase (IPPK). Knockdown of Ippk had effects opposite to those of IP6, decreasing rhythm amplitude and lengthening period. Ipmk knockdown had few effects on rhythm alone, but attenuated the effects of lithium on rhythms. However, lithium did not change the intracellular content of IP6 in NIH3T3 cells or neurons. Pharmacological inhibition of the IP6 kinases (IP6K) increased rhythm amplitude and shortened period, suggesting secondary effects of inositol pyrophosphates may underlie the period shortening effect, but not the amplitude increasing effect of IP6. Overall, we conclude that inositol phosphates, in particular IP6 have effects on circadian rhythms. Manipulations affecting IP6 and related inositol phosphates may offer a novel means through which circadian rhythms can be regulated.

Concepts: Signal transduction, Adenosine triphosphate, Enzyme, Circadian rhythm, Inositol, Phytic acid, GSK-3, Inositol phosphate


The decision between T cell activation and tolerance is governed by the spatial and temporal integration of diverse molecular signals and events occurring downstream of TCR and costimulatory or coinhibitory receptor engagement. The PI3K-protein kinase B (PKB; also known as Akt) signaling pathway is a central axis in mediating proximal signaling events of TCR and CD28 engagement in T cells. Perturbation of the PI3K-PKB pathway, or the loss of negative regulators of T cell activation, such as the E3 ubiquitin ligase Cbl-b, have been reported to lead to increased susceptibility to autoimmunity. In this study, we further examined the molecular pathway linking PKB and Cbl-b in murine models. Our data show that the protein kinase GSK-3, one of the first targets identified for PKB, catalyzes two previously unreported phosphorylation events at Ser(476) and Ser(480) of Cbl-b. GSK-3 inactivation by PKB abrogates phosphorylation of Cbl-b at these two sites and results in reduced Cbl-b protein levels. We further show that constitutive activation of PKB in vivo results in a loss of tolerance that is mediated through the downregulation of Cbl-b. Altogether, these data indicate that the PI3K-PKB-GSK-3 pathway is a novel regulatory axis that is important for controlling the decision between T cell activation and tolerance via Cbl-b.

Concepts: Protein, Signal transduction, Adenosine triphosphate, Enzyme, Glucose, Cell biology, T cell, GSK-3


Severe intestinal graft-vs-host disease (GVHD) after allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) causes mucosal ulceration and induces innate and adaptive immune responses that amplify and perpetuate GVHD and the associated barrier dysfunction. Pharmacological agents to target mucosal barrier dysfunction in GVHD are needed. We hypothesized that induction of Wnt signaling by lithium, an inhibitor of glycogen synthase kinase (GSK3), would potentiate intestinal crypt proliferation and mucosal repair and that inhibition of GSK3 in inflammatory cells would attenuate the deregulated inflammatory response to mucosal injury. We conducted an observational pilot study to provide data for the potential design of a randomized study of lithium. Twenty patients with steroid refractory intestinal GVHD meeting enrollment criteria were given oral lithium carbonate. GVHD was otherwise treated per current practice, including 2 mg/kg per day of prednisone equivalent. Seventeen patients had extensive mucosal denudation (extreme endoscopic grade 3) in the duodenum or colon. We observed that 8 of 12 patients (67%) had a complete remission (CR) of GVHD and survived more than 1 year (median 5 years) when lithium administration was started promptly within 3 days of endoscopic diagnosis of denuded mucosa. When lithium was started promptly and less than 7 days from salvage therapy for refractory GVHD, 8 of 10 patients (80%) had a CR and survived more than 1 year. In perspective, a review of 1447 consecutive adult HCT patients in the preceding 6 years at our cancer center showed 0% one-year survival in 27 patients with stage 3-4 intestinal GVHD and grade 3 endoscopic appearance in the duodenum or colon. Toxicities included fatigue, somnolence, confusion or blunted affect in 50% of the patients. The favorable outcomes in patients who received prompt lithium therapy appear to support the future conduct of a randomized study of lithium for management of severe GVHD with extensive mucosal injury.

Concepts: Inflammation, Graft-versus-host disease, Ulcerative colitis, Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, Bipolar disorder, Lithium pharmacology, GSK-3, John Cade


Little is known about the effects of chronic alcohol intake on the outcome of acute kidney injury (AKI). Hence, we examined the effects of chronic alcohol intake on the development of renal fibrosis following AKI in an animal model of bilateral renal ischemia-reperfusion (IR) injury. We first found that chronic alcohol exposure exacerbated bilateral IR-induced renal fibrosis and renal function impairment. This phenomenon was associated with increased bilateral IR-induced extracellular matrix deposition and an increased myofibroblast population as well as increased bilateral IR-induced expression of fibrosis-related genes in the kidneys. To explore the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon, we showed that chronic alcohol exposure enhanced β-arrestin 2 (Arrb2) expression and Akt and glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK3)β activation in the kidneys. Importantly, pharmacological GSK3 inhibition alleviated bilateral IR-induced renal fibrosis and renal function impairment. Furthermore, we demonstrated that Arrb2(-/-) mice exhibited resistance to IR-induced renal fibrosis and renal function impairment following chronic alcohol exposure, and these effects were associated with attenuated GSK3β activation in the kidneys. Taken together, our results suggest that chronic alcohol exposure may potentiate AKI via β-arrestin 2/Akt/GSK3β-mediated signaling in the kidney.

Concepts: Renal failure, Kidney, Nephrology, Renal physiology, Electrolyte, GSK-3