Multiple mechanisms induce transcriptional silencing of a subset of genes, including oestrogen receptor alpha, in response to deacetylase inhibition by valproic acid and trichostatin A

Oncogene. 2005 Jul 21;24(31):4894-907. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1208662.


Valproate (VPA) and trichostatin A (TSA), inhibitors of zinc-dependent deacetylase activity, induce reduction in the levels of mRNA encoding oestrogen receptor-alpha (ERalpha), resulting in subsequent clearance of ERalpha protein from breast and ovarian cell lines. Inhibition of oestrogen signalling may account for the endocrine disorders, menstrual abnormalities, osteoporosis and weight gain that occur in a proportion of women treated with VPA for epilepsy or for bipolar mood disorder. Transcriptome profiling revealed that VPA and TSA also modulate the expression of, among others, key regulatory components of the cell cycle. Meta-analysis of genes directly responsive to oestrogen indicates that VPA and TSA have a generally antioestrogenic profile in ERalpha positive cells. Concomitant treatment with cycloheximide prevented most of these changes in gene expression, including downregulation of ERalpha mRNA, indicating that a limited number of genes signal a hyperacetylated state within cells. Three members of the NAD-dependent deacetylases, the sirtuins, are upregulated by VPA and by TSA and sirtuin activity contributes to loss of ERalpha expression. However, prolonged inhibition of the sirtuins by sirtinol also induces loss of ERalpha from cells. Mechanistically, we show that VPA invokes reversible promoter shutoff of the ERalpha, pS2 and cyclin D1 promoters, by inducing recruitment of methyl cytosine binding protein 2 (MeCP2) with concomitant exclusion of the maintenance methylase DNMT1. Furthermore, we demonstrate that, in the presence of VPA, local DNA methylation, deacetylation and demethylation of activated histones and recruitment of inhibitory complexes occurs on the pS2 promoter.

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Breast Neoplasms
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • DNA Primers
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha / genetics*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects*
  • Gene Silencing
  • Genetic Markers
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors*
  • Humans
  • Hydroxamic Acids / pharmacology*
  • Kinetics
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / drug effects
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Neoplasm / genetics
  • Tamoxifen / analogs & derivatives
  • Tamoxifen / pharmacology
  • Transcription, Genetic / drug effects*
  • Valproic Acid / pharmacology*


  • DNA Primers
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha
  • Genetic Markers
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors
  • Hydroxamic Acids
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Neoplasm
  • Tamoxifen
  • afimoxifene
  • trichostatin A
  • Valproic Acid