Histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors have recently been reported to have possible reno-protective effects in the last few years. In this study, we found that tricostatin A (TSA), an HDAC inhibitor, prevented transforming growth factor beta1 (TGF-beta1)-induced apoptosis in cultured human renal proximal tubular epithelial cells (RPTECs). TGF-beta1-induced apoptosis via the activation of both caspase-8 and caspase-9 but did not activate the Fas receptor and did not alter Bcl-2 or Bax protein expression. TSA prevented TGF-beta1-induced apoptosis and the activation of caspase-8 and caspase-9 in RPTECs but did not inhibit the TGF-beta1-induced phosphorylation of Smad3 and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK). However, TSA inhibited the TGF-beta1-induced phosphorylation of extracellular signal regulated kinase (ERK), and the MAPK/ERK kinase inhibitor U0126, which specifically inhibits ERK, also prevented TGF-beta1-induced apoptosis. Our results show, for the first time, that TSA inhibits TGF-beta1-induced ERK activation and overrides pro-apoptotic signals like Smad3 and p38 in human RPTECs.