Gene expression is dynamically controlled by epigenetics through post-translational modifications of histones, chromatin-associated proteins and DNA itself. All these elements are required for the maintenance of chromatin structure and cell identity in the context of a normal cellular phenotype. Disruption of epigenetic regulation is a common event in human cancer. Here, we review the key protein families that control epigenetic signalling through writing, erasing or reading specific post-translational modifications. By exploiting the leading role of epigenetics in tumour development and the reversibility of epigenetic modifications, promising novel epigenetic-based therapies are being developed. In this article, we highlight the emerging low MW inhibitors targeting each class of chromatin-associated protein, their current use in preclinical and clinical trials and the likelihood of their being approved in the near future.
© 2014 The British Pharmacological Society.