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Eur Respir J. 2009 Jul;34(1):145-55. doi: 10.1183/09031936.00084808.

Suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid: a potential epigenetic therapeutic agent for lung fibrosis?

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  • 1Tissue Modulation Laboratory, Division of Bioengineering, Faculty of Engineering, National University of Singapore, Singapore.


Pulmonary fibrosis represents a fatal stage of interstitial lung diseases of known and idiopathic aetiology. No effective therapy is currently available. Based on an indication-discovery approach we present novel in vitro evidence that the histone deacetylases inhibitor suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid (SAHA), an FDA approved anti-cancer drug, has antifibrotic and anti-inflammatory potential. Human lung fibroblasts (fetal, adult and idiopathic adult pulmonary fibrosis) were treated with transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta 1 with or without SAHA. Collagen deposition, alpha-smooth muscle actin (alpha-SMA) expression, matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)1 activity, tissue inhibitor of MMP (TIMP)1 production, apoptosis and cell proliferation were assessed. Pro-inflammatory cytokines relevant to pulmonary fibrosis were assayed in SAHA-treated human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) and its subpopulations. SAHA abrogated TGF-beta 1 effects on all the fibroblast lines by preventing their transdifferentiation into alpha-SMA positive myofibroblasts and increased collagen deposition without inducing apoptosis. However, MMP1 activity and TIMP1 production was modulated without a clear fibrolytic effect. SAHA also inhibited serum-induced proliferation of the fibroblast lines and caused hyperacetylation of alpha-tubulin and histone. Cytokine secretion was inhibited from PBMC and lymphocytes at nonapoptotic concentrations. Taken together, these data demonstrate combined antifibrotic and anti-inflammatory properties of SAHA, suggesting its therapeutic potential for pulmonary fibrosis.

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