Bipolar disorder (BD) is a mood disorder that affects millions worldwide and is associated with severe mood swings between mania and depression. The mood stabilizers valproate (VPA) and lithium (Li) are among the main drugs that are used to treat BD patients. However, these drugs are not effective for all patients and cause serious side effects. Therefore, better drugs are needed to treat BD patients. The main barrier to developing new drugs is the lack of knowledge about the therapeutic mechanism of currently available drugs. Several hypotheses have been proposed for the mechanism of action of mood stabilizers. However, it is still not known how they act to alleviate both mania and depression. The pathology of BD is characterized by mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress, and abnormalities in calcium signaling. A deficiency in the unfolded protein response (UPR) pathway may be a shared mechanism that leads to these cellular dysfunctions. This is supported by reported abnormalities in the UPR pathway in lymphoblasts from BD patients. Additionally, studies have demonstrated that mood stabilizers alter the expression of several UPR target genes in mouse and human neuronal cells. In this review, we outline a new perspective wherein mood stabilizers exert their therapeutic mechanism by activating the UPR. Furthermore, we discuss UPR abnormalities in BD patients and suggest future research directions to resolve discrepancies in the literature.
Copyright © 2021 Suliman, Schmidtke and Greenberg.