DNA methyltransferase inhibition enhances apoptosis induced by histone deacetylase inhibitors

Wei Guo Zhu, Romola R. Lakshmanan, Matthew D. Beal, Gregory A. Otterson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

209 Scopus citations


Histone acetylation has long been associated with transcriptional activation, whereas conversely, deacetylation of histones is associated with gene silencing and transcriptional repression. Here we report that inhibitors of histone deacetylase (HDAC), depsipeptide and trichostatin A, induce apoptotic cell death in human lung cancer cells as demonstrated by DNA flow cytometry and Western immunoblot to detect cleavage of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase. This HDAC inhibitorinduced apoptosis is greatly enhanced in the presence of the DNA methyltransferase inhibitor, 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine (DAC). The HDAC inhibitor-induced apoptosis appears to be p53 independent, because no change in apoptotic cell death was observed in H1299 cells that expressed exogenous wild-type p53 (H1299 cells express no endogenous p53 protein). To further investigate the mechanism of DAC-enhanced, HDAC inhibitor-induced apoptosis, we analyzed histone H3 and H4 acetylation by Western immunoblotting. Results showed that depsipeptide induced a dose-dependent acetylation of histones H3 and H4, which was greatly increased in DAC-pretreated cells. By analyzing the acetylation of specific lysine residues at the amino terminus of histone H4 (Ac-5, Ac-8, Ac-12, and Ac-16), we found that the enhancement of HDAC inhibitor-induced acetylation of histones in the DAC-pretreated cells was not lysine site specific. These results demonstrate that DNA methylation status is an important determinant of apoptotic susceptibility to HDAC inhibitors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1327-1333
Number of pages7
JournalCancer Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 15 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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