Histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDAC inhibitors, HDI) are a class of compounds that interfere with the function of histone deacetylase.
HDIs have a long history of use in psychiatry and neurology as mood stabilzers and anti-epileptics. More recently they are being investigated as possible treatments for cancers and inflammatory diseases.
To carry out gene expression, a cell must control the coiling and uncoiling of DNA around histones. This is accomplished with the assistance of histone acetylases (HAT), which acetylate the lysine residues in core histones leading to a less compact and more transcriptionally active chromatin, and, on the converse, the actions of histone deacetylases (HDAC), which remove the acetyl groups from the lysine residues leading to the formation of a condensed and transcriptionally silenced chromatin. Reversible modification of the terminal tails of core histones constitutes the major epigenetic mechanism for remodeling higher-order chromatin structure and controlling gene expression. HDAC inhibitors (HDI) block this action and can result in hyperacetylation of histones, thereby affecting gene expression.
The histone deacetylase inhibitors are a new class of cytostatic agents that inhibit the proliferation of tumor cells in culture and in vivo by inducing cell cycle arrest, differentiation and/or apoptosis. Histone acetylation and deacetylation play important roles in the modulation of chromatin topology and the regulation of gene transcription. Histone deacetylase inhibition induces the accumulation of hyperacetylated nucleosome core histones in most regions of chromatin but affects the expression of only a small subset of genes, leading to transcriptional activation of some genes, but repression of an equal or larger number of other genes. Non-histone proteins such as transcription factors are also targets for acetylation with varying functional effects. Acetylation enhances the activity of some transcription factors such as the tumor suppressor p53 and the erythroid differentiation factor GATA-1 but may repress transcriptional activity of others including T cell factor and the co-activator ACTR. Recent studies [...] have shown that the estrogen receptor alpha (ERalpha) can be hyperacetylated in response to histone deacetylase inhibition, suppressing ligand sensitivity and regulating transcriptional activation by histone deacetylase inhibitors. Conservation of the acetylated ERalpha motif in other nuclear receptors suggests that acetylation may play an important regulatory role in diverse nuclear receptor signaling functions. A number of structurally diverse histone deacetylase inhibitors have shown potent antitumor efficacy with little toxicity in vivo in animal models. Several compounds are currently in early phase clinical development as potential treatments for solid and hematological cancers both as monotherapy and in combination with cytotoxics and differentiation agents."