Histone deacetylase inhibitors up-regulate astrocyte GDNF and BDNF gene transcription and protect dopaminergic neurons

Xuefei Wu, Po See Chen, Shannon Dallas, Belinda Wilson, Michelle L. Block, Chao Chuan Wang, Harriet Kinyamu, Nick Lu, Xi Gao, Yan Leng, De Maw Chuang, Wanqin Zhang, Ru Band Lu, Jau Shyong Hong*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

232 Scopus citations


Parkinson's disease (PD) is characterized by the selective and progressive loss of dopaminergic (DA) neurons in the midbrain substantia nigra. Currently, available treatment is unable to alter PD progression. Previously, we demonstrated that valproic acid (VPA), a mood stabilizer, anticonvulsant and histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor, increases the expression of glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in astrocytes to protect DA neurons in midbrain neuron-glia cultures. The present study investigated whether these effects are due to HDAC inhibition and histone acetylation. Here, we show that two additional HDAC inhibitors, sodium butyrate (SB) and trichostatin A (TSA), mimic the survival-promoting and protective effects of VPA on DA neurons in neuron-glia cultures. Similar to VPA, both SB and TSA increased GDNF and BDNF transcripts in astrocytes in a time-dependent manner. Furthermore, marked increases in GDNF promoter activity and promoter-associated histone H3 acetylation were noted in astrocytes treated with all three compounds, where the time-course for acetylation was similar to that for gene transcription. Taken together, our results indicate that HDAC inhibitors up-regulate GDNF and BDNF expression in astrocytes and protect DA neurons, at least in part, through HDAC inhibition. This study indicates that astrocytes may be a critical neuroprotective mechanism of HDAC inhibitors, revealing a novel target for the treatment of psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1123-1134
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2008


  • Astrocytes
  • BDNF
  • Dopaminergic neurons
  • GDNF
  • Histone acetylation
  • Neurotrophic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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