Valproic acid antagonizes the capacity of other histone deacetylase inhibitors to activate the Epstein-barr virus lytic cycle

J Virol. 2011 Jun;85(11):5628-43. doi: 10.1128/JVI.02659-10. Epub 2011 Mar 16.


Diverse stimuli reactivate the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) lytic cycle in Burkitt lymphoma (BL) cells. In HH514-16 BL cells, two histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors, sodium butyrate (NaB) and trichostatin A (TSA), and the DNA methyltransferase inhibitor azacytidine (AzaCdR) promote lytic reactivation. Valproic acid (VPA), which, like NaB, belongs to the short-chain fatty acid class of HDAC inhibitors, fails to induce the EBV lytic cycle in these cells. Nonetheless, VPA behaves as an HDAC inhibitor; it causes hyperacetylation of histone H3 (J. K. Countryman, L. Gradoville, and G. Miller, J. Virol. 82:4706-4719, 2008). Here we show that VPA blocked the induction of EBV early lytic proteins ZEBRA and EA-D in response to NaB, TSA, or AzaCdR. The block in lytic activation occurred prior to the accumulation of BZLF1 transcripts. Reactivation of EBV in Akata cells, in response to anti-IgG, and in Raji cells, in response to tetradecanoyl phorbol acetate (TPA), was also inhibited by VPA. MS-275 and apicidin, representing two additional classes of HDAC inhibitors, and suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid (SAHA) reactivated EBV in HH514-16 cells; this activity was also inhibited by VPA. Although VPA potently blocked the expression of viral lytic-cycle transcripts, it did not generally block the transcription of cellular genes and was not toxic. The levels and kinetics of specific cellular transcripts, such as Stat3, Frmd6, Mad1, Sepp1, c-fos, c-jun, and egr1, which were activated by NaB and TSA, were similar in HH514-16 cells treated with VPA. When combined with NaB or TSA, VPA did not inhibit the activation of these cellular genes. Changes in cellular gene expression in response to VPA, NaB, or TSA were globally similar as assessed by human genome arrays; however, VPA selectively stimulated the expression of some cellular genes, such as MEF2D, YY1, and ZEB1, that could repress the EBV lytic cycle. We describe a novel example of functional antagonism between HDAC inhibitors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Viral / drug effects
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / growth & development
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / pathogenicity*
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Transcription, Genetic / drug effects
  • Valproic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Virus Activation / drug effects*


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors
  • Valproic Acid