We studied inhibition of histone deacetylases (HDACs), which results in the unraveling of chromatin, facilitating increased gene expression. ITF2357, an orally active, synthetic inhibitor of HDACs, was evaluated as an anti-inflammatory agent. In lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated cultured human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), ITF2357 reduced by 50% the release of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNFalpha) at 10 to 22 nM, the release of intracellular interleukin (IL)-1alpha at 12 nM, the secretion of IL-1beta at 12.5 to 25 nM, and the production of interferon-gamma (IFNgamma) at 25 nM. There was no reduction in IL-8 in these same cultures. Using the combination of IL-12 plus IL-18, IFNgamma and IL-6 production was reduced by 50% at 12.5 to 25 nM, independent of decreased IL-1 or TNFalpha. There was no evidence of cell death in LPS-stimulated PBMCs at 100 nM ITF2357, using assays for DNA degradation, annexin V, and caspase-3/7. By Northern blotting of PBMCs, there was a 50% to 90% reduction in LPS-induced steady-state levels of TNFalpha and IFNgamma mRNA but no effect on IL-1beta or IL-8 levels. Real-time PCR confirmed the reduction in TNFalpha RNA by ITF2357. Oral administration of 1.0 to 10 mg/kg ITF2357 to mice reduced LPS-induced serum TNFalpha and IFNgamma by more than 50%. Anti-CD3-induced cytokines were not suppressed by ITF2357 in PBMCs either in vitro or in the circulation in mice. In concanavalin-A-induced hepatitis, 1 or 5 mg/kg of oral ITF2357 significantly reduced liver damage. Thus, low, nonapoptotic concentrations of the HDAC inhibitor ITF2357 reduce pro-inflammatory cytokine production in primary cells in vitro and exhibit anti-inflammatory effects in vivo.