Differential expression of histone post-translational modifications in acute myeloid and chronic lymphocytic leukemia determined by high-pressure liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry

J Am Soc Mass Spectrom. 2004 Jan;15(1):77-86. doi: 10.1016/j.jasms.2003.10.001.


The post-translational modification of the core histones is critical to the regulation of chromatin structure. Traditional methods for the determination of histone modification utilize immunoassay techniques to determine the extent and site of post-translational modification. These methods, though sensitive, require site-specific antibodies. This manuscript describes the application of reverse-phase high-pressure liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry (LC-MS) to analyze global modification levels of core histones. The method is fast, sensitive, and easily automated. Furthermore, the technique gives the global patterns of modification for all four core histones in a single experiment. The LC-MS method was optimized using histones extracted from bovine thymus. These methods were then applied to the characterization of changes in histone modification in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cell lines treated with histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors. Dose-dependent changes in the distribution of modified core histones were observed. These results were validated in primary leukemia cells from patients with refractory or relapsed AML or chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) treated on a Phase I clinical trial of the HDAC inhibitor depsipeptide. An increase in the relative abundance of specific acetylated forms of histone H4 was readily observable in these patients at intervals of 4 and 24 h after treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Histones / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / genetics
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / metabolism*
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / genetics
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / metabolism*
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational*
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / methods*


  • Histones