New method to detect histone acetylation levels by flow cytometry

Simona Ronzoni, Mario Faretta, Marco Ballarini, PierGiuseppe Pelicci, Saverio Minucci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Reversible histone acetylation affects chromatin structural organization, thus regulating gene expression and other nuclear events. Levels of histone acetylation are tightly modulated in normal cells, and alterations of their regulating mechanisms have been shown to be involved in tumorigenesis. Methods: We developed a new flow cytometric technique for detection of histone acetylation, based on a specific monoclonal antibody that recognizes acetylated histone tails. Bivariate analysis for histone acetylation levels and DNA were performed to study modulation of chromatin organization during the cell cycle and after induction of histone hyperacetylation by the histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor trichostatin A (TSA). Histone acetylation and transcription levels were monitored during differentiation induced by retinoic acid alone or in combination with TSA. Blood samples from patients were analyzed with the described protocol to monitor the effects of HDAC inhibitors in vivo and validate the developed protocol for clinical usage. Results: Flow cytometric detection of acetylation status can successfully detect modifications induced by HDAC inhibitor treatment in vivo as demonstrated by analysis of various blood samples from patients treated with valproic acid. Changes in acetylation levels during the cell cycle demonstrated a reproducible increase in histone acetylation during the replication phase that was subsequently decreased at the G2M entrance, thus paralleling the behavior of DNA replication and transcriptional activity. Conclusions: Multiparameter analysis of histone acetylation and expression of molecular markers, DNA ploidy, and/or cell cycle kinetics can provide a quick and statistically reliable tool for the diagnosis and evaluation of treatment efficacy in clinical trials using HDAC inhibitors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-61
Number of pages10
JournalCytometry Part A
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2005


  • Flow cytometry
  • Histone acetylation
  • Histone deacetylase inhibitor
  • Leukemia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Cell Biology
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Biophysics
  • Endocrinology

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