• A Low-Therapeutic Dose of Lithium Inhibits GSK3 and Enhances Myoblast Fusion in C2C12 Cells

      Kurgan, Nigel; Whitley, Kennedy C; Maddalena, Lucas A; Moradi, Fereshteh; Stoikos, Joshua; Hamstra, Sophie I; Rubie, Elizabeth A; Kumar, Megha; Roy, Brian D; Woodgett, James R; et al. (MDPI, 2019)
      Glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3) slows myogenic differentiation and myoblast fusion partly by inhibiting the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway. Lithium, a common medication for bipolar disorder, inhibits GSK3 via Mg+ competition and increased Ser21 (GSK3α) or Ser9 (GSK3β) phosphorylation, leading to enhanced myoblast fusion and myogenic differentiation. However, previous studies demonstrating the effect of lithium on GSK3 have used concentrations up to 10 mM, which greatly exceeds concentrations measured in the serum of patients being treated for bipolar disorder (0.5–1.2 mM). Here, we determined whether a low-therapeutic (0.5 mM) dose of lithium could promote myoblast fusion and myogenic differentiation in C2C12 cells. C2C12 myotubes differentiated for three days in media containing 0.5 mM lithium chloride (LiCl) had significantly higher GSK3β (ser9) and GSK3α (ser21) phosphorylation compared with control myotubes differentiated in the same media without LiCl (+2–2.5 fold, p < 0.05), a result associated with an increase in total β-catenin. To further demonstrate that 0.5 mM LiCl inhibited GSK3 activity, we also developed a novel GSK3-specific activity assay. Using this enzyme-linked spectrophotometric assay, we showed that 0.5 mM LiCl-treated myotubes had significantly reduced GSK3 activity (−86%, p < 0.001). Correspondingly, 0.5 mM LiCl treated myotubes had a higher myoblast fusion index compared with control (p < 0.001) and significantly higher levels of markers of myogenesis (myogenin, +3-fold, p < 0.001) and myogenic differentiation (myosin heavy chain, +10-fold, p < 0.001). These results indicate that a low-therapeutic dose of LiCl is sufficient to promote myoblast fusion and myogenic differentiation in muscle cells, which has implications for the treatment of several myopathic conditions