Studies of histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors, novel anticancer drugs, in models of autoimmune diseases, asthma, and inflammatory bowel disease suggest that HDAC inhibitors may also have useful anti-inflammatory effects. Accordingly, in vitro studies relevant to asthma and inflammatory bowel disease were conducted using a selection of HDAC inhibitors: suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid (SAHA, Vorinostat™), and a related branched hydroxamic acid, diamide (1), MGCD0103 and two short chain fatty acid derivatives: sodium butyrate (of use in inflammatory bowel disease) and sodium valproate. The ability of those HDAC inhibitors to modulate antigen- or agonist-induced contraction of isolated guinea pig tracheal rings and colon, agonist-induced contraction of rat colon, and histamine release from rat peritoneal mast cells was examined. Pre-incubation (up to 6 h) with 10-40 μM of SAHA, diamide (1), or MGCD0103 caused significant inhibition of the antigen-induced contraction of sensitised guinea pig tracheal rings as well as inhibition of the contraction induced by histamine, 5-hydroxytryptamine and carbachol (G-protein coupled receptor agonists), while sodium butyrate (1 mM) and sodium valproate (100 μM) were weak inhibitors. Contraction of tracheal rings by sodium fluoride (NaF, a non-selective G-protein activator), KCl and a peroxyl radical generator was blocked by MGCD0103. Additionally, MGCD0103 significantly inhibited antigen-induced histamine release from IgE antibody-sensitised rat peritoneal mast cells, and NaF-induced histamine release, as well as inhibiting NaF-induced colon contraction. Those various effects appear to involve modulation of cell signaling, probably involving G-protein coupled pathways, and further support the development of HDAC inhibitors as anti-inflammatory agents.