The nucleosomal histones can be modified through reversible acetylation by histone acetyltransferases (HATs) and deacetylases (HDACs). HATs induce nucleosomal relaxation and allow DNA-binding by transcriptional activators. HDACs from corepressor complexes which negatively regulate cell growth. However, the HDAC inhibitors butyrate and Trichostatin A block T cell proliferation, suggesting that not all effects of HDACs lead to repression. Using mRNA differential display and 5'RACE we isolated human HDAC3, a novel gene that is upregulated in PHA-activated T cell clones. HDAC3 is homologous to other human HDACs and yeast RPD3. In peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), activation by PHA, PMA and alpha-CD3 increased HDAC mRNA but no effect was seen with IFN-gamma, LPS, or IL-4. In contrast, GMCSF downregulated PBMC levels of HDAC3 mRNA. All HDACs were found to be ubiquitously expressed in immune and non-immune tissues. In human myeloid leukemia THP-1 cells, HDAC3 transfection resulted in increased size, aberrant nuclear morphology and cell cycle G2/M cell accumulation. Functional activity of the expressed HDAC3 protein was confirmed in alpha-HDAC3 antibody immunoprecipitates by a histone deacetylase assay. Our study suggests the participation of HDACs in cell cycle progression and activation.