Although histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors are emerging as a promising new treatment strategy in malignancy, how they exert their effect on human non-small cell lung cancer cells is as yet unclear. This study was undertaken to investigate the underlying mechanism of an HDAC inhibitor, Trichostatin A (TSA), -induced apoptosis in a human lung carcinoma cell line A549. The effects of this compound were also tested on cyclooxygenase (COX) activity. Treatment of A549 cells to TSA resulted in the inhibition of viability and the induction of apoptosis in a concentration-dependent manner, which could be proved by trypan blue counts, DAPI staining, agarose gel electrophoresis and flow cytometry analysis. Apoptosis of A549 cells by TSA was associated with a down-regulation of anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 protein and an up-regulation of pro-apoptotic Bax protein. TSA treatment induced the proteolytic activation of caspase-3 and caspase-9, and a concomitant degradation of poly(ADP-ribose)-polymerase protein. Furthermore, TSA decreased the levels of COX-2 mRNA and protein expression without significant changes in the levels of COX-1, which was correlated with an inhibition in prostaglandin E2 synthesis. Taken together, these findings provide important new insights into the possible molecular mechanisms of the anti-cancer activity of TSA.