The Effects of Class-Specific Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors on the Development of Limbs During Organogenesis

Toxicol Sci. 2015 Nov;148(1):220-8. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfv174. Epub 2015 Aug 6.


Histone deacetylases (HDACs) play a major role in chromatin remodeling, gene regulation, and cellular signaling. While the role of each class of HDAC during normal development is unclear, several HDAC inhibitors are embryotoxic; the mechanisms leading to the teratogenicity of HDAC inhibitors are not known. Here, we investigated the effects of class-specific HDAC inhibitors on the development of organogenesis-stage murine limbs. Timed-pregnant COL2A1-ECFP, COL10A1-mCherry, and COL1A1-YFP CD1 reporter mice were euthanized on gestation day 12; embryonic forelimbs were excised and cultured in vitro for 1, 3, and 6 days in the presence or absence of MS275 (a class I HDAC inhibitor), MC1568 (a class III HDAC inhibitor), Sirtinol (a class II HDAC inhibitor), or valproic acid, our positive control. Fluorescently tagged COL2A1, COL10A1, and COL1A1 served as markers of the differentiation of proliferative chondrocytes, hypertrophic chondrocytes, and osteoblasts, respectively. MS275 and valproic acid caused a reduction in expression of all three markers, suggesting effects on both chondrogenesis and osteogenesis. MC1568 had no effect on chondrocyte markers and mildly inhibited COL1A1 expression at 6 days. Sirtinol had no effect on COL2A1 expression or chondrocyte differentiation 1 day following exposure; however, it caused a drastic regression in limb cartilage and reduced the expression of all three differentiation markers to nearly undetectable levels at 6 days. MS275 and Sirtinol caused a 2.2- and 2.7-fold increase, respectively, in cleaved-caspase 3, a marker of apoptosis, suggesting embryotoxicity. These data demonstrate that inhibition of class I or III HDACs causes severe developmental toxicity and is highly teratogenic.

Keywords: HDAC inhibitor; MC1568; MS275; Sirtinol; apoptosis; chondrogenesis; limb development; osteogenesis; teratogen; valproic acid.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Benzamides / classification
  • Benzamides / toxicity
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chondrogenesis / drug effects*
  • Collagen Type I / genetics
  • Collagen Type I / metabolism
  • Collagen Type II / genetics
  • Collagen Type II / metabolism
  • Collagen Type X / genetics
  • Collagen Type X / metabolism
  • Embryo, Mammalian / cytology
  • Embryo, Mammalian / drug effects*
  • Embryo, Mammalian / metabolism
  • Embryo, Mammalian / pathology
  • Female
  • Forelimb
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / drug effects*
  • Genes, Reporter / drug effects
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors / classification
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors / toxicity*
  • Hydroxamic Acids / classification
  • Hydroxamic Acids / toxicity
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Naphthols / classification
  • Naphthols / toxicity
  • Osteogenesis / drug effects*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pyridines / classification
  • Pyridines / toxicity
  • Pyrroles / classification
  • Pyrroles / toxicity
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Teratogens / classification
  • Teratogens / toxicity*


  • Benzamides
  • Biomarkers
  • Col10a1 protein, mouse
  • Col2a1 protein, mouse
  • Collagen Type I
  • Collagen Type II
  • Collagen Type X
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors
  • Hydroxamic Acids
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • MC1568
  • Naphthols
  • Pyridines
  • Pyrroles
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Teratogens
  • collagen type I, alpha 1 chain
  • sirtinol
  • entinostat