Investigational New Drugs

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 25–36

Histone deacetylase inhibitors enhance the anticancer activity of nutlin-3 and induce p53 hyperacetylation and downregulation of MDM2 and MDM4 gene expression


  • Chithra D. Palani
    • Department of Pediatric Hematology and OncologyUniversity Children’s Hospital Jena
  • James F. Beck
    • Department of Pediatric Hematology and OncologyUniversity Children’s Hospital Jena
    • Department of Pediatric Hematology and OncologyUniversity Children’s Hospital Jena
    • Klinik für Kinder- und Jugendmedizin, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena

DOI: 10.1007/s10637-010-9510-7

Cite this article as:
Palani, C.D., Beck, J.F. & Sonnemann, J. Invest New Drugs (2012) 30: 25. doi:10.1007/s10637-010-9510-7


Nutlin-3, a small-molecule MDM2 inhibitor, restores p53 function and is, thus, an appealing candidate for the treatment of cancers retaining wild-type p53. However, nutlin-3 applied as single agent may be insufficient for cancer therapy. Therefore, we explored whether the anticancer activity of nutlin-3 could be enhanced by combination with histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi), i.e. vorinostat, sodium butyrate, MS-275 and apicidin. We found that nutlin-3 and HDACi cooperated to induce cell death in the p53 wild-type cell lines A549 and A2780, but not in the p53 null cell line PC-3, as assessed by Alamar Blue assay and flow cytometric analyses of propidium iodide uptake and mitochondrial depolarization. Combination index analysis showed that the effect was synergistic. For comparison, we tested nutlin-3 in combination with paclitaxel, revealing that nutlin-3 antagonized the cytotoxic activity of paclitaxel. To shed light on the underlying mechanism of the synergistic action of nutlin-3 and HDACi, we determined the acetylation status of p53 by immunoblotting and the mRNA levels of MDM2 and MDM4 by real-time RT-PCR. We observed vorinostat to induce p53 hyperacetylation, to reduce the constitutive gene expression of MDM2 and MDM4, and to counteract the nutlin-3-induced upregulation of MDM2 gene expression. In conclusion, our study shows that HDACi amplify the antitumor activity of nutlin-3—possibly by inducing p53 hyperacetylation and/or MDM2 and/or MDM4 downregulation—suggesting that treatment with a combination of nutlin-3 and HDACi may be an effective strategy for treating tumors with wild-type p53.


Histone deacetylase inhibitorsMDM2MDM4Nutlin-3p53 acetylationPaclitaxel

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010