Emodin and emodin-rich rhubarb inhibits histone deacetylase (HDAC) activity and cardiac myocyte hypertrophy

Levi W. Evans, Abigail Bender, Leah Burnett, Luis Godoy, Yi Shen, Dante Staten, Tong Zhou, Jeffrey E. Angermann, Bradley S. Ferguson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Pathological cardiac hypertrophy is a classical hallmark of heart failure. At the molecular level, inhibition of histone deacetylase (HDAC) enzymes attenuate pathological cardiac hypertrophy in vitro and in vivo. Emodin is an anthraquinone that has been implicated in cardiac protection. However, it is not known if the cardio-protective actions for emodin are mediated through HDAC-dependent regulation of gene expression. Therefore, we hypothesized that emodin would attenuate pathological cardiac hypertrophy via inhibition of HDACs, and that these actions would be reflected in an emodin-rich food like rhubarb. In this study, we demonstrate that emodin and Turkish rhubarb containing emodin inhibit HDAC activity in vitro, with fast-on, slow-off kinetics. Moreover, we show that emodin increased histone acetylation in cardiomyocytes concomitant to global changes in gene expression; gene expression changes were similar to the well-established pan-HDAC inhibitor trichostatin A (TSA). We additionally present evidence that emodin inhibited phenylephrine (PE) and phorbol myristate acetate (PMA)-induced hypertrophy in neonatal rat ventricular myocytes (NRVMs). Lastly, we demonstrate that the cardioprotective actions of emodin are translated to an angiotensin II (Ang) mouse model of cardiac hypertrophy and fibrosis and are linked to HDAC inhibition. These data suggest that emodin blocked pathological cardiac hypertrophy, in part, by inhibiting HDAC-dependent gene expression changes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108339
JournalJournal of Nutritional Biochemistry
StatePublished - May 2020


  • Cardiac hypertrophy
  • Emodin
  • Food bioactives
  • HDAC
  • Heart failure
  • Histone deacetylase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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