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The mood stabilizing agents lithium chloride (LiCl) and sodium valproate (VPA) have recently gained interest as potential neuroprotective therapeutics. However, exploitation of these therapeutic applications is hindered by both a lack of molecular understanding of the mode of action, and a number of sub-optimal properties, including a relatively small therapeutic window and variable patient response. Human neuroblastoma cells (SH-SY5Y) were exposed to 1 mM lithium chloride or 1 mM sodium valproate for 6 h or 72 h, and transcriptomes measured by Affymetrix U133A/B microarray. Statistically significant gene expression changes were identified using SAM software, with selected changes confirmed at transcript (TaqMan) and protein (Western blotting) levels. Finally, anti-apoptotic action was measured by an in vitro fluorescent assay. Exposure of SH-SY5Y cells to therapeutically relevant concentrations of either lithium chloride or sodium valproate elicited 936 statistically significant changes in gene expression. Amongst these changes we observed a large (maximal 31.3-fold) increase in the expression of the homeodomain protein Six1, and have characterized the time- and dose-dependent up-regulation of this gene in response to both drugs. In addition, we demonstrate that, like LiCl or VPA treatment, Six1 over-expression protects SH-SY5Y cells from staurosporine-induced apoptosis via the blockade of caspsase-3 activation, whereas removal of Six1 protein via siRNA antagonises the ability of LiCl and VPA to protect SH-SY5Y cells from STS-induced apoptosis. These results provide a novel mechanistic rationale underlying the neuroprotective mechanism of LiCl and VPA, suggesting exciting possibilities for the development of novel therapeutic agents against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinsonism.