The application of reversed-phase high-pressure liquid chromatography under gradient conditions and electrospray ion trap mass spectrometry (LC-ESI-MS) to the analysis of global modification levels of core histones is described. The optimised LC-ESI-MS method was applied for the first time to the characterisation of histones extracted from HT29, a human colon cancer cell line. Eight histones (H1-1, H1-2, H2A-1, H2A-2, H2B, H3-1, H3-2, H4) were separated on a C4 stationary phase with complete resolution, never reached in previous HPLC-MS methods, by using a gradient elution with the combined presence of heptafluorobutyric acid and formic acid as acidic modifiers in the mobile phase. Heptafluorobutyric acid was found to improve selectivity, whereas the presence of formic acid decreased ion suppression. Histones eluted from the column were detected with an ion trap mass spectrometer with an electrospray source. The peak averaged mass spectra were reconstructed by Mag Tran 1.0 software and the mass of the various isoforms of histones were derived. Method validation was conducted by performing the same sample analysis by coupling LC-ESI to a quadrupole-time-of-flight mass spectrometer (Q-TOF). The number of histone forms and their mass were found to differ not significantly from those obtained by ion trap mass spectrometer. Also the relative modifications abundance within the same histone type was found following the same trend as the two mass analysers. This method was then applied to the characterisation of changes in histone modification in HT29, never analysed by LC-MS before, treated with histone deacetylase inhibitors such as valproate and sodium butyrate, also used in preclinical trials as anticancer drugs. In particular, both the inhibitors produced a significant increase in H4 histone acetylated forms: 89% increase of the diacetyl dimethyl H4 form was observed with 1mM valproate supplementation, whereas 5 mM butyrate led to a 68% increase of the same form. Triacetyl monomethyl H4 (11,377 Da) and triacetyl dimethyl H4 (11,390 Da) were found only in cells treated with butyrate. Selective changes of H3 histone were detected with butyrate, in agreement with recently reported western blotting studies. Modifications in the H2A histone degree of acetylation were revealed by treatment of the cells with butyrate (H2A-1, H2A-2) and valproate (H2A-2). The results of the proposed methodology confirmed that inhibition of histone deacetylases caused histone hyperacetylation, responsible for decondensation and reorganization of interphase dynamic chromatin. This method resulted in selective and sensitive method to monitor variations in the acetylation and methylation state of histones after treatment of HT29 with inhibitors, and is therefore suitable for further application in new drug discovery for tumour therapy.