Effects of dynamic changes in histone acetylation and deacetylase activity on pulmonary fibrosis

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Histone deacetylases (HDACs) play an important role in dysregulation of histone acetylation/deacetylation, which is the main driving force of the progression of pulmonary fibrosis. Here we investigated the changes in histone acetylation/deacetylation, and the contribution of specific class I and class II HDACs in the progression of pulmonary fibrosis.


Male C57BL/6J mice received a single dose of tracheal administration of bleomycin to establish the pulmonary fibrosis model. The changes in acetylation rate of histone 3 (H3) and histone 4 (H4), and the activity of HDAC2 and HDAC4 in the lung tissue during the progression from alveolitis to pulmonary fibrosis were measured.


The acetylation rate of H3/H4 significantly decreased during alveolitis and the early and middle stages of fibrosis, but restored in the late stage of fibrosis. Correlation analysis showed that H4 deacetylation affected both alveolitis and pulmonary fibrosis. H3 deacetylation only affected alveolitis. HDAC2 activity significantly increased in the middle and late stages of pulmonary fibrosis. There was no significant difference in HDAC4 activity between bleomycin and saline groups. However, HDAC4 activity changed significantly with the progression of the disease in bleomycin group. The changes in HDAC2 and HDAC4 activity were different. HDAC2 had long-lasting effects, while HDAC4 had transient effects. Correlation analysis showed that HDAC2 and HDAC4 activity was positively correlated with alveolitis score and fibrosis score.


The changes in histone acetylation may directly regulate the gene expression of inflammatory cytokines/fibronectin and thus affect the progression of pulmonary fibrosis. The injury-induced histone deacetylation switched into acetylation at the late stage of pulmonary fibrosis, which may be involved in the repair process. HDAC2 is mainly involved in the chronic progression of pulmonary fibrosis, and HDAC4 is mainly involved in early stress response to pulmonary fibrosis.

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