NF-kappaB activation is reciprocally regulated by RelA/p65 acetylation and deacetylation, which are mediated by histone acetyltransferases (HATs) and deacetylases (HDACs). Here we demonstrate that in leukemia cells, NF-kappaB activation by the HDAC inhibitors (HDACIs) MS-275 and suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid was associated with hyperacetylation and nuclear translocation of RelA/p65. The latter events, as well as the association of RelA/p65 with IkappaBalpha, were strikingly diminished by either coadministration of the IkappaBalpha phosphorylation inhibitor Bay 11-7082 (Bay) or transfection with an IkappaBalpha superrepressor. Inhibition of NF-kappaB by pharmacological inhibitors or genetic strategies markedly potentiated apoptosis induced by HDACIs, and this was accompanied by enhanced reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation, downregulation of Mn-superoxide dismutase and XIAP, and c-Jun N-terminal kinase 1 (JNK1) activation. Conversely, N-acetyl l-cysteine blocked apoptosis induced by Bay/HDACIs by abrogating ROS generation. Inhibition of JNK1 activation attenuated Bay/HDACI lethality without affecting NF-kappaB inactivation and ROS generation. Finally, XIAP overexpression dramatically protected cells against the Bay/HDACI regimen but failed to prevent ROS production and JNK1 activation. Together, these data suggest that HDACIs promote the accumulation of acetylated RelA/p65 in the nucleus, leading to NF-kappaB activation. Moreover, interference with these events by either pharmacological or genetic means leads to a dramatic increase in HDACI-mediated lethality through enhanced oxidative damage, downregulation of NF-kappaB-dependent antiapoptotic proteins, and stress-related JNK1 activation.