Lithium is the drug of choice for the treatment of bipolar affective disorder. The identification of an in vivo target of lithium in fission yeast as a model organism may help in the understanding of lithium therapy. For this purpose, we have isolated genes whose overexpression improved cell growth under high LiCl concentrations. Overexpression of tol1(+), one of the isolated genes, increased the tolerance of wild-type yeast cells for LiCl but not for NaCl. tol1(+) encodes a member of the lithium-sensitive phosphomonoesterase protein family, and it exerts dual enzymatic activities, 3'(2'),5'-bisphosphate nucleotidase and inositol polyphosphate 1-phosphatase. tol1(+) gene-disrupted cells required high concentrations of sulfite in the medium for growth. Consistently, sulfite repressed the sulfate assimilation pathway in fission yeast. However, tol1(+) gene-disrupted cells could not fully recover from their growth defect and abnormal morphology even when the medium was supplemented with sulfite, suggesting the possible implication of inositol polyphosphate 1-phosphatase activity for cell growth and morphology. Given the remarkable functional conservation of the lithium-sensitive dual-specificity phosphomonoesterase between fission yeast and higher-eukaryotic cells during evolution, it may represent a likely in vivo target of lithium action across many species.
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