Histone deacetylase inhibitors potentiate photodynamic therapy in colon cancer cells marked by chromatin-mediated epigenetic regulation of CDKN1A

Halaburková A. et al.


Hypericin-mediated photodynamic therapy (HY-PDT) has recently captured increased attention as an alternative minimally invasive anticancer treatment, although cancer cells may acquire resistance. Therefore, combination treatments may be necessary to enhance HY-PDT efficacy. Histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACis) are often used in combination treatments due to their non-genotoxic properties and epigenetic potential to sensitize cells to external stimuli. Therefore, this study attempts for the first time to investigate the therapeutic effects of HDACis in combination with visible light-mediated PDT against cancer. Specifically, the colorectal cancer cell model was used due to its known resistance to HY-PDT.


Two chemical groups of HDACis were tested in combination with HY-PDT: the hydroxamic acids Saha and Trichostatin A, and the short-chain fatty acids valproic acid and sodium phenylbutyrate (NaPB), as inhibitors of all-class versus nuclear HDACs, respectively. The selected HDACis manifest a favorable clinical toxicity profile and showed similar potencies and mechanisms in intragroup comparisons but different biological effects in intergroup analyses. HDACi combination with HY-PDT significantly attenuated cancer cell resistance to treatment and caused the two HDACi groups to become similarly potent. However, the short-chain fatty acids, in combination with HY-PDT, showed increased selectivity towards inhibition of HDACs versus other key epigenetic enzymes, and NaPB induced the strongest expression of the otherwise silenced tumor suppressor CDKN1A, a hallmark gene for HDACi-mediated chromatin modulation. Epigenetic regulation of CDKN1A by NaPB was associated with histone acetylation at enhancer and promoter elements rather than histone or DNA methylation at those or other regulatory regions of this gene. Moreover, NaPB, compared to the other HDACis, caused milder effects on global histone acetylation, suggesting a more specific effect on CDKN1A chromatin architecture relative to global chromatin structure. The mechanism of NaPB + HY-PDT was P53-dependent and likely driven by the HY-PDT rather than the NaPB constituent.


Our results show that HDACis potentiate the antitumor efficacy of HY-PDT in colorectal cancer cells, overcoming their resistance to this drug and epigenetically reactivating the expression of CDKN1A. Besides their therapeutic potential, hypericin and these HDACis are non-genotoxic constituents of dietary agents, hence, represent interesting targets for investigating mechanisms of dietary-based cancer prevention.

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June, 2017


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