American journal of translational research

An atlas of histone deacetylase expression in breast cancer: fluorescence methodology for comparative semi-quantitative analysis.

PMID 22347520


The histone deacetylase inhibitors, suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid (Vorinostat, Zolinza™) and depsipeptide (Romidepsin, Istodax™) have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of refractory cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Numerous histone deacetylase inhibitors are currently undergoing clinical trials, predominantly in combination with other cancer modalities, for the treatment of various haematological and solid malignancies. Most of the traditional compounds are known as broad-spectrum or pan-histone deacetylase inhibitors, possessing activity against a number of the 11 metal-dependent enzymes. One of the main questions in the field is whether class- or isoform-specific compounds would offer a therapeutic benefit compared to broad-spectrum inhibitors. Therefore, analysis of the relative expression of the different histone deacetylase enzymes in cancer cells and tissues is important to determine whether there are specific targets. We used a panel of antibodies directed against the 11 known mammalian histone deacetylases to determine expression levels in MCF7 breast cancer cells and in tissue representative of invasive ductal cell carcinoma and ductal carcinoma in situ. Firstly, we utilized a semi-quantitative method based on immunofluorescence staining to examine expression of the different histone deacetylases in MCF7 cells. Our findings indicate high expression levels of HDAC1, 3 and 6 in accordance with findings from others using RT-PCR and immunoblotting. Following validation of our approach we examined the expression of the different isoforms in representative control and breast cancer tissue. In general, our findings indicate higher expression of class I histone deacetylases compared to class II enzymes in breast cancer tissue. Analysis of individual cancer cells in the same tissue indicated marked heterogeneity in the expression of most class I enzymes indicating potential complications with the use of class- or isoform-specific compounds. Overall, our approach can be utilized to rapidly compare, in an unbiased semi-quantitative manner, the differential levels of expression of histone deacetylase enzymes in cells and tissues using widely available imaging software. It is anticipated that such analysis will become increasingly important as class- or isoform-specific histone deacetylase inhibitors become more readily available.