Li+/Mg2+ competition at therapeutic intracellular Li+ levels in human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells

Brian Layden, Conrad Diven, Nicole Minadeo, Fred B. Bryant, Duarte Mota De Freitas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Objectives: One proposed mechanism of lithium action in the treatment of bipolar disorder is that Li+ competes with Mg2+ for Mg2+ binding sites within the cell. In this study, we investigated this competition at therapeutic intracellular Li+ levels in human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y celts. Methods: We used fluorescence spectroscopy and a Mg2+ indicator, furaptra, to investigate this competition in human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells. Atomic absorption spectrophotometry was used for determination of the intracellular Li+ levels. Results: The neuroblastoma cells, incubated in 15 mM or 30 mM Li+-containing buffer, showed a significant increase in free intracellular Mg2+ levels [using a positive linear within-groups contrast t-test, the 15 mM condition produced t(2) = 5.0, one-tailed p < 0.02, and the 30 mM Li+-incubation conditions gave t(2) = 9.2, one-tailed p < 0.006] but did not significantly increase over time in the Li+-free condition [t(2) = 0.1, one-tailed p > 0.96]. At the earlier times during the incubation (1 or 10 min for the 15 mM or 30 mM Li+-containing buffers), the intracellular Li+ concentrations were 0.6-2.5 mM, values which are comparable to those reached in the brain of Li+-treated patients. Conclusion: We demonstrated that competition between Li+ and Mg2+ can occur at therapeutic intracellular Li+ levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)200-204
Number of pages5
JournalBipolar Disorders
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2000


  • Bipolar disorder
  • Fluorescence
  • Lithium
  • Magnesium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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