Aberrant histone acetylation plays an essential role in the neoplastic process via the epigenetic silencing of tumour suppressor genes (TSGs); therefore, the inhibition of histone deacetylases (HDAC) has become a promising target in cancer therapeutics. To investigate the correlation of histone acetylation with clinicopathological features and TSG expression, we examined the expression of acetylated H3 (AcH3), RARβ2, E-cadherin, and β-catenin by immunohistochemistry in 65 cervical squamous cell carcinoma patients. The results revealed that the absence of AcH3 was directly associated with poor histological differentiation and nodal metastasis as well as reduced/negative expression of RARβ2, E-cadherin, and β-catenin in clinical tumour samples. We further demonstrated that the clinically available HDAC inhibitors valproic acid (VPA) and suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid (SAHA), in combination with all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA), can overcome the epigenetic barriers to transcription of RARβ2 in human cervical cancer cells. Chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis showed that the combination treatment increased the enrichment of acetylated histone in the RARβ2-RARE promoter region. In view of these findings, we evaluated the antitumor effects induced by combined VPA and ATRA treatment in a xenograft model implanted with poorly differentiated human squamous cell carcinoma. Notably, VPA restored RARβ2 expression via epigenetic modulation. Additive antitumour effects were produced in tumour xenografts by combining VPA with ATRA treatment. Mechanistically, the combination treatment reactivated the expression of TSGs RARβ2, E-cadherin, P21 CIP1 , and P53 and reduced the level of p-Stat3. Sequentially, upregulation of involucrin and loricrin, which indicate terminal differentiation, strongly contributed to tumour growth inhibition along with partial apoptosis. In conclusion, targeted therapy with HDAC inhibitors and RARβ2 agonists may represent a novel therapeutic approach for patients with cervical squamous cell carcinoma. © 2013 Feng et al.
Feng, D., Wu, J., Tian, Y., Zhou, H., Zhou, Y., Hu, W., … Ma, C. (2013). Targeting of histone deacetylases to reactivate tumour suppressor genes and its therapeutic potential in a human cervical cancer xenograft model. PLoS ONE, 8(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0080657