Aberrant epigenetic regulation of gene expression contributes to tumor initiation and progression. Studies from a plethora of hematologic and solid tumors support the use of histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi) as potent anticancer agents. However, the mechanism of HDACi action with respect to the temporal order of induced cellular events is unclear. The present study investigates the anticancer effects of the HDACi trichostatin A in high-grade childhood brain tumor cells. Acute exposure to trichostatin A resulted in marked inhibition of cell proliferation, an increase in the proportion of G(2)-M cells, activation of H2A.X, and subsequent induction of apoptosis in the majority of cell lines. These phenotypic effects were associated with abrogation of telomerase activity and human telomerase reverse transcriptase downregulation in the majority of cell lines. In contrast, no cytotoxicity was observed in primary ependymal cells with respect to cilia function. Thus, inhibition of histone deacetylases leads to antiproliferative and proapoptotic effects in childhood brain tumor cells, likely to involve altered chromatin regulation at the human telomerase reverse transcriptase promoter. Mol Cancer Ther; 9(9); 2568-81. (C) 2010 AACR.