Valproic acid induces growth arrest, apoptosis, and senescence in medulloblastomas by increasing histone hyperacetylation and regulating expression of p21Cip1, CDK4, and CMYC

Mol Cancer Ther. 2005 Dec;4(12):1912-22. doi: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-05-0184.


Valproic acid is a well-tolerated anticonvulsant that has been identified recently as a histone deacetylase inhibitor. To evaluate the antitumor efficacy and mechanisms of action of valproic acid in medulloblastoma and supratentorial primitive neuroectodermal tumor (sPNET), which are among the most common malignant brain tumors in children with poor prognosis, two medulloblastoma (DAOY and D283-MED) and one sPNET (PFSK) cell lines were treated with valproic acid and evaluated with a panel of in vitro and in vivo assays. Our results showed that valproic acid, at clinically safe concentrations (0.6 and 1 mmol/L), induced potent growth inhibition, cell cycle arrest, apoptosis, senescence, and differentiation and suppressed colony-forming efficiency and tumorigenicity in a time- and dose-dependent manner. The medulloblastoma cell lines were more responsive than the sPNET cell line and can be induced to irreversible suppression of proliferation and significantly reduced tumorigenicity by 0.6 and 1 mmol/L valproic acid. Daily i.p. injection of valproic acid (400 mg/kg) for 28 days significantly inhibited the in vivo growth of DAOY and D283-MED s.c. xenografts in severe combined immunodeficient mice. With Western hybridization and real-time reverse transcription-PCR, we further showed that the antitumor activities of valproic acid correlated with induction of histone (H3 and H4) hyperacetylation, activation of p21, and suppression of TP53, CDK4, and CMYC expression. In conclusion, valproic acid possesses potent in vitro and in vivo antimedulloblastoma activities that correlated with induction of histone hyperacetylation and regulation of pathways critical for maintaining growth inhibition and cell cycle arrest. Therefore, valproic acid may represent a novel therapeutic option in medulloblastoma treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects
  • Cell Division / drug effects*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cellular Senescence / drug effects*
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 4 / metabolism*
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21 / metabolism*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Histones / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Medulloblastoma / metabolism
  • Medulloblastoma / pathology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, SCID
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / metabolism*
  • Valproic Acid / pharmacology*


  • CDKN1A protein, human
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21
  • Histones
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc
  • Valproic Acid
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 4