Genistein is a phytoestrogen that has been reported to suppress the AKT signaling pathway in several malignancies. However, the molecular mechanism of genistein action is not known. We tested the hypothesis that genistein activates expression of several aberrantly silenced tumor suppressor genes (TSGs) that have unmethylated promoters such as PTEN, CYLD, p53 and FOXO3a. We report here that genistein activates TSGs through remodeling of the heterochromatic domains at promoters in prostate cancer cells by modulating histone H3-Lysine 9 (H3-K9) methylation and deacetylation. Genistein activation involved demethylation and acetylation of H3-K9 at the PTEN and the CYLD promoter, while acetylation of H3-K9 at the p53 and the FOXO3a promoter occurred through reduction of endogenous SIRT1 activity. There was a decrease of SIRT1 expression and accumulation of SIRT1 in the cytoplasm from the nucleus. Increased expression of these TSGs was also reciprocally related to attenuation of phosphorylated-AKT and NF-κB binding activity in prostate cancer cells. This is the first report describing a novel epigenetic pathway that activates TSGs by modulating either histone H3-Lysine 9 (H3-K9) methylation or deacetylation at gene promoters leading to inhibition of the AKT signaling pathway. These findings strengthen the understanding of how genistein may be chemoprotective in prostate cancer. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.