Histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors are powerful epigenetic regulators that have enormous therapeutic potential and have pleiotropic effects at the cellular and systemic levels. To date, HDAC inhibitors are used clinically for a wide variety of disorders ranging from hematopoietic malignancies to psychiatric disorders, are known to have anti-inflammatory properties, and are in clinical trials for several other diseases. In addition to influencing gene expression, HDAC enzymes also function as part of large, multisubunit complexes which have many nonhistone targets, alter signaling at the cellular and systemic levels, and result in divergent and cell-type specific effects. Thus, the effects of HDAC inhibitor treatment are too intricate to completely understand with current knowledge but the ability of HDAC inhibitors to modulate the immune system presents intriguing therapeutic possibilities. This review will explore the complexity of HDAC inhibitor treatment at the cellular and systemic levels and suggest strategies for effective use of HDAC inhibitors in biomedical research, focusing on the ability of HDAC inhibitors to modulate the immune system. The possibility of combining the documented anticancer effects and newly emerging immunomodulatory effects of HDAC inhibitors represents a promising new combinatorial therapeutic approach for HDAC inhibitor treatments.
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