Inhibition of Class I Histone Deacetylases Unveils a Mitochondrial Signature and Enhances Oxidative Metabolism in Skeletal Muscle and Adipose Tissue

  1. Maurizio Crestani1
  1. 1Laboratorio “Giovanni Galli” di Biochimica e Biologia Molecolare del Metabolismo e Spettrometria di Massa, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy
  2. 2Laboratorio “Giovanni Armenise-Harvard Foundation,” Università degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy
  3. 3Laboratorio di Immunoistochimica degli Epiteli, Dipartimento di Morfologia Umana e Scienze Biomediche “Città Studi”, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy
  4. 4Dipartimento di Chimica e Tecnologie del Farmaco, Istituto Pasteur-Fondazione Cenci Bolognetti, Sapienza Università di Roma, Rome, Italy
  5. 5Unit of Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Dipartimento di Scienze Farmacologiche e Biomolecolari, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy
  6. 6Department of Chemical Physiology and The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California
  1. Corresponding authors: Maurizio Crestani, maurizio.crestani{at}, and Emma De Fabiani, emma.defabiani{at}
  1. A.Ga., N.M., E.D.F., and M.C. contributed equally to this work.


Chromatin modifications are sensitive to environmental and nutritional stimuli. Abnormalities in epigenetic regulation are associated with metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes that are often linked with defects in oxidative metabolism. Here, we evaluated the potential of class-specific synthetic inhibitors of histone deacetylases (HDACs), central chromatin-remodeling enzymes, to ameliorate metabolic dysfunction. Cultured myotubes and primary brown adipocytes treated with a class I–specific HDAC inhibitor showed higher expression of Pgc-1α, increased mitochondrial biogenesis, and augmented oxygen consumption. Treatment of obese diabetic mice with a class I– but not a class II–selective HDAC inhibitor enhanced oxidative metabolism in skeletal muscle and adipose tissue and promoted energy expenditure, thus reducing body weight and glucose and insulin levels. These effects can be ascribed to increased Pgc-1α action in skeletal muscle and enhanced PPARγ/PGC-1α signaling in adipose tissue. In vivo ChIP experiments indicated that inhibition of HDAC3 may account for the beneficial effect of the class I–selective HDAC inhibitor. These results suggest that class I HDAC inhibitors may provide a pharmacologic approach to treating type 2 diabetes.


  • This article contains Supplementary Data online at

  • A.Ga. and C.G. are currently affiliated with the Department of Chemical Physiology, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California.

  • F.G. is currently affiliated with the Center for Integrative Genomics, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland.

  • See accompanying commentary, p. 685.

  • Received April 28, 2012.
  • Accepted August 25, 2012.

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