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Event: 1502

Key Event Title

The KE title should describe a discrete biological change that can be measured. It should generally define the biological object or process being measured and whether it is increased, decreased, or otherwise definably altered relative to a control state. For example “enzyme activity, decreased”, “hormone concentration, increased”, or “growth rate, decreased”, where the specific enzyme or hormone being measured is defined. More help

Histone deacetylase inhibition

Short name
The KE short name should be a reasonable abbreviation of the KE title and is used in labelling this object throughout the AOP-Wiki. The short name should be less than 80 characters in length. More help
Histone deacetylase inhibition

Biological Context

Structured terms, selected from a drop-down menu, are used to identify the level of biological organization for each KE. Note, KEs should be defined within a particular level of biological organization. Only KERs should be used to transition from one level of organization to another. Selection of the level of biological organization defines which structured terms will be available to select when defining the Event Components (below). More help
Level of Biological Organization

Cell term

Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf.The biological context describes the location/biological environment in which the event takes place.  For molecular/cellular events this would include the cellular context (if known), organ context, and species/life stage/sex for which the event is relevant. For tissue/organ events cellular context is not applicable.  For individual/population events, the organ context is not applicable. More help
Cell term

Organ term

Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf.The biological context describes the location/biological environment in which the event takes place.  For molecular/cellular events this would include the cellular context (if known), organ context, and species/life stage/sex for which the event is relevant. For tissue/organ events cellular context is not applicable.  For individual/population events, the organ context is not applicable. More help
Organ term

Key Event Components

Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf.Because one of the aims of the AOP-KB is to facilitate de facto construction of AOP networks through the use of shared KE and KER elements, authors are also asked to define their KEs using a set of structured ontology terms (Event Components). In the absence of structured terms, the same KE can readily be defined using a number of synonymous titles (read by a computer as character strings). In order to make these synonymous KEs more machine-readable, KEs should also be defined by one or more “event components” consisting of a biological process, object, and action with each term originating from one of 22 biological ontologies (Ives, et al., 2017; See List). Biological process describes dynamics of the underlying biological system (e.g., receptor signalling). The biological object is the subject of the perturbation (e.g., a specific biological receptor that is activated or inhibited). Action represents the direction of perturbation of this system (generally increased or decreased; e.g., ‘decreased’ in the case of a receptor that is inhibited to indicate a decrease in the signalling by that receptor).Note that when editing Event Components, clicking an existing Event Component from the Suggestions menu will autopopulate these fields, along with their source ID and description. To clear any fields before submitting the event component, use the 'Clear process,' 'Clear object,' or 'Clear action' buttons. If a desired term does not exist, a new term request may be made via Term Requests. Event components may not be edited; to edit an event component, remove the existing event component and create a new one using the terms that you wish to add. More help
Process Object Action
enzyme inhibitor activity histone deacetylase 1 decreased

Key Event Overview

AOPs Including This Key Event

All of the AOPs that are linked to this KE will automatically be listed in this subsection. This table can be particularly useful for derivation of AOP networks including the KE. Clicking on the name of the AOP will bring you to the individual page for that AOP. More help
AOP Name Role of event in AOP Point of Contact Author Status OECD Status
Histone deacetylase inhibition leading to testicular atrophy MolecularInitiatingEvent Brendan Ferreri-Hanberry (send email) Open for citation & comment EAGMST Under Review
HDAC inhibition leads to impeded craniofacial development MolecularInitiatingEvent Agnes Aggy (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite
HDAC inhibition leads to neural tube defects MolecularInitiatingEvent Allie Always (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite


This is a structured field used to identify specific agents (generally chemicals) that can trigger the KE. Stressors identified in this field will be linked to the KE in a machine-readable manner, such that, for example, a stressor search would identify this as an event the stressor can trigger. NOTE: intermediate or downstream KEs in one AOP may function as MIEs in other AOPs, meaning that stressor information may be added to the KE description, even if it is a downstream KE in the pathway currently under development.Information concerning the stressors that may trigger an MIE can be defined using a combination of structured and unstructured (free-text) fields. For example, structured fields may be used to indicate specific chemicals for which there is evidence of an interaction relevant to this MIE. By linking the KE description to a structured chemical name, it will be increasingly possible to link the MIE to other sources of chemical data and information, enhancing searchability and inter-operability among different data-sources and knowledgebases. The free-text section “Evidence for perturbation of this MIE by stressor” can be used both to identify the supporting evidence for specific stressors triggering the MIE as well as to define broad chemical categories or other properties that classify the stressors able to trigger the MIE for which specific structured terms may not exist. More help

Taxonomic Applicability

Latin or common names of a species or broader taxonomic grouping (e.g., class, order, family) can be selected from an ontology. In many cases, individual species identified in these structured fields will be those for which the strongest evidence used in constructing the AOP was available in relation to this KE. More help
Term Scientific Term Evidence Link
rat Rattus norvegicus High NCBI
human Homo sapiens High NCBI
mouse Mus musculus High NCBI

Life Stages

The structured ontology terms for life-stage are more comprehensive than those for taxa, but may still require further description/development and explanation in the free text section. More help
Life stage Evidence
All life stages Moderate

Sex Applicability

The authors must select from one of the following: Male, female, mixed, asexual, third gender, hermaphrodite, or unspecific. More help
Term Evidence
Unspecific High

Key Event Description

A description of the biological state being observed or measured, the biological compartment in which it is measured, and its general role in the biology should be provided. For example, the biological state being measured could be the activity of an enzyme, the expression of a gene or abundance of an mRNA transcript, the concentration of a hormone or protein, neuronal activity, heart rate, etc. The biological compartment may be a particular cell type, tissue, organ, fluid (e.g., plasma, cerebrospinal fluid), etc. The role in the biology could describe the reaction that an enzyme catalyses and the role of that reaction within a given metabolic pathway; the protein that a gene or mRNA transcript codes for and the function of that protein; the function of a hormone in a given target tissue, physiological function of an organ, etc. Careful attention should be taken to avoid reference to other KEs, KERs or AOPs. Only describe this KE as a single isolated measurable event/state. This will ensure that the KE is modular and can be used by other AOPs, thereby facilitating construction of AOP networks. More help

Nucleosomes consist of eight core histones, two of each histone H2A, H2B, H3 and H4 [Damaskos et al., 2017]. DNA strands (about 200 bp) wind around the core histones, which can be modified on their N-terminal ends. One possible modification is the acetylation of lysine residues, which decreases the binding strength between DNA and the core histone. Histone deacetylases (HDACs) hydrolyze the acetyl residues [Damaskos et al., 2017]. HDACs remove the acetyl groups from the lysine residues leading to the formation of a condensed and transcriptionally silenced chromatin. Thus, the inhibition of HDAC blocks this action and can result in hyperacetylation of histones associated mostly with increases in transcriptional activation. Histone deacetylase inhibitor (HDI) inhibits HDAC, causing increased acetylation of the histones and thereby facilitating binding of transcription factors [Taunton et al., 1996].

It is known that eukaryotic HDAC isoforms are classified into four classes: class I HDACs (isoforms 1, 2, 3, 8), class II HDACs (isoforms 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10), class III HDACs (the sirtuins), and HDAC11 [Gregoretti et al., 2004; Weichert, 2009; Barneda-Zahonero and Parra, 2012]. HDACs 1, 2 and 3 are ubiquitously expressed, whereas HDAC8 is predominantly expressed in cells with smooth muscle/myoepithelial differentiation [Weichert, 2009]. HDAC6 is not observed to be expressed in lymphocytes, stromal cells and vascular endothelial cells [Weichert, 2009]. Class III HDACs, sirtuins, are widely expressed and localized in different cellular compartments [Barneda-Zahonero and Parra, 2012]. SirT1 is highly expressed in testis, thymus and multiple types of germ cells [Bell et al., 2014]. HDAC11 expression is enriched in kidney, brain, testis, heart and skeletal muscle [Barneda-Zahonero and Parra, 2012]. The members of groups 1,2 and 4 are dependent on a zinc ion and a water molecule at their active sites, for their deacetylase function. The Sirtuins of class 3 depend on NAD+, and are considered impervious to most known HDAC inhibitors [Drummond et al., 2005].

Several structurally distinct groups of compounds have been found to inhibit HDACs of class 1, 2 and 4, among others short-chain fatty acids (e.g. butyrate and VPA), hydroxamic acids (e.g. TSA and SAHA) and epoxyketones (e.g. Trapoxin) [Drummond et al., 2005]. The hydroxamic acids seem to exert their inhibitory action by mimicking the acetyl-lysine target of HDACs, chelating the zinc ion in the active site and displacing the water molecule [Finnin et al., 1999]. Several recent high resolution crystal structures support this mode of inhibition [Decroos et al., 2015; Luckhurst et al., 2016]. The mode of inhibition of epoxyketones seems to function the formation of a stable transition state analog with the zinc ion in the active site [Porter and Christianson, 2017]. The inhibitory actions of the short-chain fatty acids are less well defined, but it has been speculated that VPA blocks access to the binding pocket [Göttlicher et al., 2001]. It has been shown that VPA exert similar gene regulatory effects to TSA, on a panel of migration related transcripts in neural crest cells [Dreser et al., 2015] supporting a mode of action similar to hydroxamic acid type HDAC inhibitors.

How It Is Measured or Detected

One of the primary considerations in evaluating AOPs is the relevance and reliability of the methods with which the KEs can be measured. The aim of this section of the KE description is not to provide detailed protocols, but rather to capture, in a sentence or two, per method, the type(s) of measurements that can be employed to evaluate the KE and the relative level of scientific confidence in those measurements. Methods that can be used to detect or measure the biological state represented in the KE should be briefly described and/or cited. These can range from citation of specific validated test guidelines, citation of specific methods published in the peer reviewed literature, or outlines of a general protocol or approach (e.g., a protein may be measured by ELISA).Key considerations regarding scientific confidence in the measurement approach include whether the assay is fit for purpose, whether it provides a direct or indirect measure of the biological state in question, whether it is repeatable and reproducible, and the extent to which it is accepted in the scientific and/or regulatory community. Information can be obtained from the OECD Test Guidelines website and the EURL ECVAM Database Service on Alternative Methods to Animal Experimentation (DB-ALM). ?

The measurement of HDAC inhibition monitors changes in histone acetylation. HDAC inhibition can be detected directly by the measurement of HDAC activity using commercially available colorimetric or fluorimetric kits or indirectly by increase of histone acetylation as the detection of global histone acetylation changes by Western blot or mass spectrometry (MS)-based proteomic methods or as detection of site-specific histone acetylation changes using chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) or ChIP-on-Chip. The measurement methods include the immunological detection of histone acetylation with anti-acetylated histone antibodies [Richon et al., 2004]. The histones are isolated from pellets of cells treated with HDIs, followed by acid-urea-triton gel electrophoresis, western blotting, and immunohistochemistry [Richon et al., 2003]. The HDAC activity is measured directly with ultra high performance liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization-tandem mass spectrometry (UHPLC-ESI-MS/MS) by calculating the ratio of deacetylated peptide and acetylated peptide [Zwick et al., 2016]. ome in silico methods including molecular modelling, virtual screening and molecular dynamics are used to find the common HDAC inhibitor structures [Huang et al., 2016; Yanuar et al. 2016].

Domain of Applicability

This free text section should be used to elaborate on the scientific basis for the indicated domains of applicability and the WoE calls (if provided). While structured terms may be selected to define the taxonomic, life stage and sex applicability (see structured applicability terms, above) of the KE, the structured terms may not adequately reflect or capture the overall biological applicability domain (particularly with regard to taxa). Likewise, the structured terms do not provide an explanation or rationale for the selection. The free-text section on evidence for taxonomic, life stage, and sex applicability can be used to elaborate on why the specific structured terms were selected, and provide supporting references and background information.  More help

The inhibition of HDAC by HDIs is well conserved between species from lower organism to mammals.

  • HDAC inhibition restores the rate of resorption of subretinal blebs in hyper glycemia in brown Norway rat and HDAC activity was inhibited with HDIs in human ARPE19 cells [Desjardins et al., 2016].
  • Treatment of HDIs inducing HDAC inhibition showed anti-tumor effects in human non-small cell lung cancer cells [Ansari et al., 2016; Miyanaga et al., 2008].
  • HDAC acetylation level was increased by HDIs in MRL-lpr/lpr murine model of lupus splenocytes [Mishra et al., 2003].
  • SAHA increased histone acetylation in brain and spleen of mice [Hockly et al., 2003].
  • MAA inhibits HDAC activity in HeLa cells and spleens from C57BL/6 mice [Jansen et al., 2004].
  • It is also reported that MAA inhibits HDAC activity in testis cytosolic and nuclear extract of juvenile rats (27 days old) [Wade et al., 2008].
  • VPA and TSA inhibit HDAC enzymatic activity in mouse embryo and human HeLa cell nuclear extract [Di Renzo et al., 2007].
  • The treatment with HDAC inhibitors, phenylbutyrate (PB) (2 mM) and TSA (200 nM), inhibits HDAC in adjuvant arthritis synovial cells derived from rats, causing higher acetylated histone [Chung et al., 2003].

Evidence for Perturbation by Stressor

Overview for Molecular Initiating Event

When a specific MIE can be defined (i.e., the molecular target and nature of interaction is known), in addition to describing the biological state associated with the MIE, how it can be measured, and its taxonomic, life stage, and sex applicability, it is useful to list stressors known to trigger the MIE and provide evidence supporting that initiation. This will often be a list of prototypical compounds demonstrated to interact with the target molecule in the manner detailed in the MIE description to initiate a given pathway (e.g., 2,3,7,8-TCDD as a prototypical AhR agonist; 17α-ethynyl estradiol as a prototypical ER agonist). Depending on the information available, this could also refer to chemical categories (i.e., groups of chemicals with defined structural features known to trigger the MIE). Known stressors should be included in the MIE description, but it is not expected to include a comprehensive list. Rather initially, stressors identified will be exemplary and the stressor list will be expanded over time. For more information on MIE, please see pages 32-33 in the User Handbook.

HDIs are classified according to chemical nature and mode of mechanism: the short chain fatty acids (e.g., butyrate, valproate), hydroxamic acids (e.g., suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid or SAHA, Trichostatin A or TSA), cyclic tetrapeptides (e.g., FK-228), benzamides (e.g., N-acetyldinaline and MS-275) and epoxides (depeudecin, trapoxin A) [Richon et al., 2003; Ropero and Esteller, 2007; Villar-Garea et al., 2004]. There is a report showing that TSA and butyrate competitively inhibits HDAC activity [Sekhavat et al., 2007]. HDIs inhibit preferentially HDACs with some selectiveness [Hu et al., 2003]. TSA inhibits HDAC1, HDAC3 and HDAC8, whereas MS-27-275 has inhibitory effect for HDAC1 and HDAC3 (IC50 value of ~0.2 mM and ~8 mM, respectively), but no effect for HDAC8 (IC50 value >10 mM) [Hu et al., 2003]. TSA inhibits HDAC1, 2, 3 of class I HDACs. [Damaskos et al., 2016].


List of the literature that was cited for this KE description. Ideally, the list of references, should conform, to the extent possible, with the OECD Style Guide ( (OECD, 2015). More help

Ansari, J. et al. (2016), "Epigenetics in non-small cell lung cancer: from basics to therapeutics", Transl Lung Cancer Res 5:155-171

Barneda-Zahonero, B. and Parra, M. (2012), "Histone deacetylases and cancer", Mol Oncol 6:579-589

Bell, E.L. et al. (2014), "SirT1 is required in the male germ cell for differentiation and fecundity in mice", Development 141:3495-3504

Chung, Y.L. et al. (2003), "A therapeutic strategy uses histone deacetylase inhibitors to modulate the expression of genes involved in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis", Mol Ther 8:707-717

Damaskos, C. et al. (2016), "Histone deacetylase inhibitors: a novel therapeutic weapon against medullary thyroid cancer?", Anticancer Res 36:5019-5024

Damaskos, C. et al. (2017), "Histone deacetylase inhibitors: an attractive therapeutic strategy against breast cancer", Anticancer Research 37: 35-46.

Decroos, C. et al. (2015), "Biochemical and structural characterization of HDAC8 mutants associated with cornelia de lange syndrome spectrum disorders", Biochemistry 54: 6501–6513.

Desjardins, D. et al. (2016), "Histone deacetylase inhibition restores retinal pigment epithelium function in hyperglycemia", PLoS ONE 11: e0162596

Di Renzo, F. et al. (2007), "Boric acid inhibits embryonic histone deacetylases: A suggested mechanism to explain boric acid-related teratogenicity", Toxicol and Appl Pharmacol 220:178-185

Dreser, N. et al. (2015), "Grouping of histone deacetylase inhibitors and other toxicants disturbing neural crest migration by transcriptional profiling", Neurotoxicology 50: 56–70

Drummond, D.C. et al. (2005), "Clinical development of histone deacetylase inhibitors as anticancer agents", Annu Rev Pharmacol Toxicol 45: 495–528

Finnin, M.S. et al. (1999), "Structures of a histone deacetylase homologue bound to the TSA and SAHA inhibitors", Nature 401: 188–193

Göttlicher, M. et al. (2001), "Valproic acid defines a novel class of HDAC inhibitors inducing differentiation of transformed cells", EMBO J 20: 6969–6978

Gregoretti, I.V. et al. (2004), "Molecular evolution of the histone deacetylase family: functional implications of phylogenetic analysis", J Mol Biol 338: 17–31

Hockly, E. et al. (2003), "Suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid, a histone deacetylase inhibitor, ameliorates motor deficits in a mouse model of Huntington’s disease", Proc Nat Acad Sci 100:2041-2046

Hu, E. et al. (2003), "Identification of novel isoform-selective inhibitors within class I histone deacetylases", J Pharmacol Exp Ther 307:720-728

Huang, Y.X. et al. (2016), "Virtual screening and experimental validation of novel histone deacetylase inhibitors", BMC Pharmacol Toxicol 17(1):32

Jansen, M.S. et al. (2014), "Short-chain fatty acids enhance nuclear receptor activity through mitogen-activated protein kinase activation and histone deacetylase inhibition", Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 101(18):7199-7204

Luckhurst, C.A. et al. (2016), "Potent, Selective, and CNS-Penetrant Tetrasubstituted Cyclopropane Class IIa Histone Deacetylase (HDAC) Inhibitors", ACS Med Chem Lett 7:34–39

Mishra, N. et al. (2003), "Histone deacetylase inhibitors modulate renal disease in the MRL-lpr/lpr mouse", J Clin Invest 111:539-552

Miyanaga, A. et al. (2008), "Antitumor activity of histone deacetylase inhibitors in non-small cell lung cancer cells: development of a molecular predictive model", Mol Cancer Ther 7:1923-1930

Porter, N.J., and Christianson, D.W. (2017), "Binding of the microbial cyclic tetrapeptide trapoxin A to the Class I histone deacetylase HDAC8", ACS Chem Biol 12:2281–2286

Richon, V.M. et al. (2003), "Histone deacetylase inhibitors: assays to assess effectiveness in vitro and in vivo", Methods Enzymol. 376:199-205

Ropero, S. and Esteller, M. (2007), "The role of histone deacetylases (HDACs) in human cancer", Mol Oncol 1:19-25

Sekhavat, A. et al. (2007), "Competitive inhibition of histone deacetylase activity by trichostatin A and butyrate", Biochemistry and Cell Biology 85:751-758

Taunton, J. et al. (1996), "A mammalian histone deacetylase related to the Yeast transcriptional regulator Rpd3p", Science 272:408-411

Villar-Garea, A. and Esteller, M. (2004), "Histone deacetylase inhibitors: understanding a new wave of anticancer agents", Int J Cancer 112:171-178

Wade, M.G. et al. (2008), "Methoxyacetic acid-induced spermatocyte death is associated with histone hyperacetylation in rats", Biol Reprod 78:822-831

Weichert, W. (2009) "HDAC expression and clinical prognosis in human malignancies", Cancer Letters 280:168-176

Yanuar, A. et al. (2016), "In silico approach to finding new active compounds from histone deacetylase (HDAC) family", Curr Pharm Des 22: 3488-3497

Zwick, V. et al. (2016), "Cell-based multi-substrate assay coupled to UHPLC-ESI-MS/MS for a quick identification of class-specific HDAC inhibitors", J Enzyme Inhib Med Chem 31: 209-214