Small molecule histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDIs) hold much promise as pharmacological modifiers of the epigenetic status of the central nervous system (CNS), given their ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. This is particularly relevant given the lack of disease-modifying therapies for many neurodegenerative diseases and that epigenetic perturbations are increasingly recognised as playing a key role in their pathophysiology. In particular, emerging evidence in recent years has shown that epigenetic dysregulation may contribute to dopaminergic neuronal death in Parkinson's disease. As a result, a number of pan-HDIs have been explored as potential neuroprotective agents for dopaminergic neurons. However, it is not known if the neuroprotective effects of pan-histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibition are a general phenomenon or if these effects require inhibition of specific classes of HDACs. Here, we examine the ability of class-specific HDIs to promote neurite growth in a variety of cellular contexts. We find that MC1568, a class IIa-specific HDI, promotes neurite growth and arbourisation and protects neurite arbours against neurotoxic insult. Furthermore, we show that class IIa-specific HDAC inhibition results in activation of the canonical Smad signalling pathway, which is known to promote the survival and growth of midbrain dopaminergic neurons. These results demonstrate the potential of class IIa-specific HDIs as regulators of neuronal structure and suggest they should be examined in animal models of Parkinson's disease as the next stage in rationalising their use as a potential therapy for this disorder.