Modulation of antigen-presenting cells by HDAC inhibitors: implications in autoimmunity and cancer

Immunol Cell Biol. 2012 Jan;90(1):55-65. doi: 10.1038/icb.2011.96. Epub 2011 Nov 22.


There is a growing body of evidence to support the use of histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi) in the treatment of diverse conditions from autoimmunity to cancer. In this context, HDACi have been ascribed many immunomodulatory effects, assigning novel and promising roles to these compounds. This review summarizes the current observations arising from both pre-clinical and clinical studies in these pathological conditions. However, it is left to be explained how a single agent can have both pro- and anti-inflammatory effects in either physiological or pathological conditions. This question is explored in greater detail by focusing on the effects of HDACi on antigen-presenting cells (APCs), key regulators of immune activation. In particular, HDACi modulation of molecules involved in antigen processing and presentation, as well as co-stimulatory and adhesion molecules, and cytokines will be discussed in the context of both professional and non-professional APCs. Professional APCs encompass classic immune cells; however, it is increasingly evident that other somatic cells, including cancer cells, are not immunologically inert and can display functions similar to professional APCs, a challenging feature that needs to be explored as a potential therapeutic target. In this way, professional and non-professional APCs can regulate their particular micro-environmental niche, affecting either a pro- or anti-inflammatory milieu.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / drug effects*
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / immunology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Autoimmunity / drug effects
  • Autoimmunity / immunology
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Factors / therapeutic use*
  • Models, Immunological
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / immunology


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors
  • Immunologic Factors