Insulin-stimulated mTOR activation in peripheral blood mononuclear cells associated with early treatment response to lithium augmentation in rodent model of antidepressant-resistance

Adam J. Walker, J. Blair Price, Kristin Borreggine, Shari L. Sutor, Andrea Gogos, Jane A. McGillivray, Mark A Frye, Susannah J Tye

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Lithium has been shown to have some therapeutic efficacy as an adjunctive treatment for intractable forms of major depression. Activation of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) and inhibition of glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK3β) have been implicated in its putative mechanisms of action. These proteins are integral components of the insulin signaling pathway, which may serve as a critical co-regulator of drug action. Utilizing an animal model of tricyclic antidepressant resistance, we investigated the relationship between insulin signaling and antidepressant response to lithium augmentation. Pre-treatment with adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH 100 µg/day i.p.) for 14 days effectively blocked the immobility-reducing effects of an acute dose of imipramine (10 mg/kg i.p.) in the forced swim test (FST). Lithium augmentation (100 mg/kg i.p.) rescued the antidepressant-like effects of imipramine in this model. Total and phosphorylated (p) levels of protein kinase B (Akt), mTOR, and GSK3β protein were quantified in the infralimbic cortex (ILPFC) following FST stress via Western blot. Levels of mTOR and pmTOR were further quantified in isolated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) following insulin stimulation (10 mg/mL for 5 min) via ELISA. Elevated levels of phosphorylated insulin signaling proteins were present in the ILPFC of ACTH-pretreated animals that received both imipramine and lithium, together with a concurrent increase in mTOR activation in PBMCs. Large correlations were observed between immobility time and insulin-stimulated mTOR levels in PBMCs. We propose that PBMC insulin challenge may be a useful probe for predicting antidepressant response to lithium administration, and potentially other therapies acting via similar mechanisms of action.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number113
JournalTranslational psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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