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Metazoans and yeast use enzymes that modulate histone acetylation and nucleosomal integrity in order to regulate transcription. Repressor complexes deacetylate histones and stabilize nucleosomes. Activator complexes acetylate histones and disrupt nucleosomes. Variation in chromatin structure makes a major contribution to gene regulation. Here we discuss the enzymatic complexes and molecular machines that make use of chromatin to control transcription.