Science China Life Sciences

, Volume 62, Issue 8, pp 1078–1086 | Cite as

Targeting histones for degradation in cancer cells as a novel strategy in cancer treatment

  • Yesheng Yin
  • Qianqian Zhu
  • Tianxia Jiang
  • Libin FanEmail author
  • Xiaobo QiuEmail author
Open Access
Research Paper


The anticancer therapies with the joint treatment of a histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor and a DNA-damaging approach are actively under clinical investigations, but the underlying mechanism is unclear. Histone homeostasis is critical to genome stability, transcriptional accuracy, DNA repair process, senescence, and survival. We have previously demonstrated that the HDAC inhibitor, trichostatin A (TSA), could promote the degradation of the core histones induced by γ-radiation or the DNAalkylating agent methyl methanesulfonate (MMS) in non-cancer cells, including mouse spermatocyte and embryonic fibroblast cell lines. In this study, we found that the joint treatment by TSA and MMS induced the death of the cultured cancer cells with an additive effect, but induced degradation of the core histones synergistically in these cells. We then analyzed various combinations of other HDAC inhibitors, including suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid and valproate sodium, with MMS or other DNAdamaging agents, including etoposide and camptothecin. Most of these combined treatments induced cell death additively, but all the tested combinations induced degradation of the core histones synergistically. Meanwhile, we showed that cell cycle arrest might not be a primary consequence for the joint treatment of TSA and MMS. Given that clinic treatments of cancers jointly with an HDAC inhibitor and a DNA-damaging approach often show synergistic effects, histone degradation might more accurately underlie the synergistic effects of these joint treatments in clinic applications than other parameters, such as cell death and cell cycle arrest. Thus, our studies might suggest that the degradation of the core histones can serve as a new target for the development of cancer therapies.


HDAC histone deacetylase inhibitor DNA damage anticancer agent histone degradation 



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31530014, 91319303 & 31600626).


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Copyright information

© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Life SciencesAnhui Medical UniversityHefeiChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Cell Proliferation and Regulation Biology, Ministry of Education, and College of Life SciencesBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingChina

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