Background: Dendritic cells (DC) are key regulators of the immune system, which is compromised in patients with bipolar disorder. We sought to study monocyte-derived DC in bipolar disorder.
Methods: Monocytes purified from blood collected from DSM-IV bipolar disorder outpatients (n = 53, 12 without lithium treatment) and healthy, individuals (n = 34) were differentiated into DC via standard granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor/ interleukin-4 culture (with/without 1, 5, and 10 mmol/L lithium chloride). The DC were analyzed for DC-specific and functional markers and for T-cell stimulatory potency.
Results: Monocytes of bipolar patients showed a mild hampering in their differentiation, into fully, active DC, showing a weak residual expression of the monocyte marker CD14 and a relatively low potency, to stimulate autologous T cells. Lithium treatment abolished this mild defect. and monocyte-derived DC of treated bipolar patients showed signs of activation (i.e., an up-regulated potency to stimulate autologous T cells and a higher expression of the DC-specific marker CD1a). This activated phenotype contrasted with the suppressed phenotype of monocyte-derived DC exposed to lithium in vitro (10 mmol/L) during culture.
Conclusions: Dendritic cells show mild aberrancies in bipolar disorder that are fully restored to even activation after in vivo lithium treatment.