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Calcium signalling has long been implicated in bipolar disorder, especially by reports of altered intracellular calcium ion concentrations ([Ca2+]). However, the evidence has not been appraised critically. We carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies of cellular calcium indices in bipolar disorder. 2281 records were identified and 117 screened, of which 32 were eligible and 21 were suitable for meta-analyses. The latter each involved up to 642 patients and 404 control subjects. We found that basal free intracellular [Ca2+] is increased in bipolar disorder, both in platelets and in lymphocytes. The effect size is 0.55, with an estimated elevation of 29%. It is observed in medication-free patients. It is present in mania and bipolar depression, but data are equivocal for euthymia. Cells from bipolar disorder individuals also show an enhanced [Ca2+] response to stimulation with 5-HT or thrombin, by an estimated 25%, with an effect size of 0.63. In studies which included other diagnoses, intracellular basal [Ca2+] was higher in bipolar disorder than in unipolar depression, but not significantly different from schizophrenia. Functional parameters of cellular Ca2+ (e.g. calcium transients), and neuronal [Ca2+], have been much less investigated, and no firm conclusions can be drawn. In summary, there is a robust, medium effect size elevation of basal and stimulated free intracellular [Ca2+] in bipolar disorder. The results suggest altered calcium functioning in the disorder, and encourage further investigations into the underlying mechanisms, and the implications for pathophysiology and therapeutics.

Original publication

DOI

10.1038/s41380-019-0622-y

Type

Journal article

Journal

Mol Psychiatry

Publication Date

04/12/2019