Valproic acid mediates the synaptic excitatory/inhibitory balance through astrocytes - A preliminary study

Chao Chuan Wang, Po See Chen, Chien Wen Hsu, Shou Jung Wu, Chieh Ting Lin, Po Wu Gean

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29 Citations (Scopus)


Valproic acid (VPA) is one of the most widely used anticonvulsant and mood-stabilizing agents for the treatment of epilepsy and bipolar disorder. However, the underlying therapeutic mechanisms of the treatment of each disease remain unclear. Recently, the anti-epileptic effect of VPA has been found to lead to modulation of the synaptic excitatory/inhibitory balance. In addition, the therapeutic action of VPA has been linked to its effect on astrocytes by regulating gene expression at the molecular level, perhaps through an epigenetic mechanism as a histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor. To provide insight into the mechanisms underlying the actions of VPA, this study investigated whether the synaptic excitatory/inhibitory (E/I) balance could be mediated by VPA through astrocytes. First, using the primary rat neuronal, astroglial, and neuro-glial mixed culture systems, we demonstrated that VPA treatment could regulate the mRNA levels of two post-synaptic cell adhesion molecules(neuroligin-1 and neuregulin-1) and two extracellular matrices (neuronal pentraxin-1and thrombospondin-3) in primary rat astrocyte cultures in a time- and concentration-dependent manner. Moreover, the up-regulation effect of VPA was noted in astrocytes, but not in neurons. In addition, these regulatory effects could be mimicked by sodium butyrate, a HDAC inhibitor, but not by lithium or two other glycogen synthase kinase-3 beta inhibitors. With the known role of these four proteins in regulating the synaptic E/I balance, we further demonstrated that VPA increased excitatory post-synaptic protein (postsynaptic density 95) and inhibitory post-synaptic protein (Gephyrin) in cortical neuro-glial mixed cultures. Our results suggested that VPA might affect the synaptic excitatory/inhibitory balance through its effect on astrocytes. This work provides the basis for future evaluation of the role of astroglial cell adhesion molecules and the extracellular matrix on the control of excitatory and inhibitory synapse formation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-120
Number of pages10
JournalProgress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Apr 27

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pharmacology
  • Biological Psychiatry


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