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Lithium is the most effective mood stabilizer for the treatment of bipolar disorder, but it is toxic at only twice the therapeutic dosage and has many undesirable side effects. It is likely that a small molecule could be found with lithium-like efficacy but without toxicity through target-based drug discovery; however, therapeutic target of lithium remains equivocal. Inositol monophosphatase is a possible target but no bioavailable inhibitors exist. Here we report that the antioxidant ebselen inhibits inositol monophosphatase and induces lithium-like effects on mouse behaviour, which are reversed with inositol, consistent with a mechanism involving inhibition of inositol recycling. Ebselen is part of the National Institutes of Health Clinical Collection, a chemical library of bioavailable drugs considered clinically safe but without proven use. Therefore, ebselen represents a lithium mimetic with the potential both to validate inositol monophosphatase inhibition as a treatment for bipolar disorder and to serve as a treatment itself.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Commun

Publication Date





Animals, Azoles, Behavior, Animal, Bipolar Disorder, Blood-Brain Barrier, Enzyme Inhibitors, Humans, Inositol, Lithium, Male, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Molecular Mimicry, Organoselenium Compounds, Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases