In the present work, we studied the molecular mechanisms by which sodium butyrate sensitizes cancer cells towards cisplatin. HeLa cells were treated with 5 mM butyrate, with 8 μM cis-diaminedichloroplatinum II (cisplatin), or with both. Cells treated with both agents showed approximately two-fold increase of the mortality rate in comparison with cells treated with cisplatin only. Accordingly, the life span of albino mice transfected with Ehrlich ascites tumor was prolonged almost two-fold by treatment with cisplatin and butyrate in comparison with cisplatin alone. This showed that the observed synergism of cisplatin and butyrate was not limited to specific cell lines or in vitro protocols, but was also expressed in vivo during the process of tumor development. DNA labeling and fluorescence activated cell sorting experiments showed that cisplatin treatment inhibited DNA synthesis and arrested HeLa cells at the G1/S transition and early S phase of the cell cycle. Western blotting and chromatin immunoprecipitation revealed that this effect was accompanied with a decrease of histone H4 acetylation levels. Butyrate treatment initially reversed the effect of cisplatin by increasing the levels of histone H4 acetylation in euchromatin regions responsible for the G1/S phase transition and initiation of DNA synthesis. This abrogated the cisplatin imposed cell cycle arrest and the cells traversed S phase with damaged DNA. However, this effect was transient and continued only a few hours.
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