Lithium is commonly used to treat bipolar disorder, which is associated with altered circadian rhythm. Lithium is a potent inhibitor of glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3), which regulates circadian rhythm in several organisms. In experiments with cultured cells, we show here that GSK3beta phosphorylates and stabilizes the orphan nuclear receptor Rev-erbalpha, a negative component of the circadian clock. Lithium treatment of cells leads to rapid proteasomal degradation of Rev-erbalpha and activation of clock gene Bmal1. A form of Rev-erbalpha that is insensitive to lithium interferes with the expression of circadian genes. Control of Rev-erbalpha protein stability is thus a critical component of the peripheral clock and a biological target of lithium therapy.
[ hide abstract ]