Histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors have promising neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties although the exact mechanisms are unclear. We have earlier showed that factors from lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-activated microglia can down-regulate the astroglial nuclear factor-erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2)-inducible anti-oxidant defence. Here we have evaluated whether histone modification and activation of GSK3β are involved in these negative effects of microglia. Microglia were cultured for 24 h in serum-free culture medium to achieve microglia-conditioned medium from non-activated cells (MCM(0)) or activated with 10 ng/mL of LPS to produce MCM(10). Astrocyte-rich cultures treated with MCM(10) showed a time-dependent (0-72 h) increase in astroglial HDAC activity that correlated with lower levels of acetylation of histones H3 and H4 and decreased levels of the transcription factor Nrf2 and γ-glutamyl cysteine ligase modulatory subunit (γGCL-M) protein levels. The HDAC inhibitors valproic acid (VPA) and trichostatin-A (TSA) elevated the histone acetylation levels, restored the Nrf2-inducible anti-oxidant defence and conferred protection from oxidative stress-induced (H(2)O(2)) death in astrocyte-rich cultures exposed to MCM(10). Inhibitors of GSK3β (lithium) and p38 MAPK (SB203580) signaling pathways restored the depressed histone acetylation and Nrf2-related transcription whereas an inhibitor of Akt (Ly294002) caused a further decrease in Nrf2-related transcription. In conclusion, the study shows that well tolerated drugs such as VPA and lithium can restore an inflammatory induced depression in the Nrf2-inducible antioxidant defence, possibly via normalised histone acetylation levels.