Histone acetyltransferases (HATs) play important roles in the regulation of gene expression. In this report, we describe the design, synthesis, and application of peptide CoA conjugates as selective HAT inhibitors for the transcriptional coactivators p300 and PCAF. Two inhibitors (Lys-CoA for p300 and H3-CoA-20 for PCAF) were found to be potent (IC(50) approximately = 0.5 microM) and selective (approximately 200-fold) in blocking p300 and PCAF HAT activities. These inhibitors were used to probe enzymatic and transcriptional features of HAT function in several assay systems. These compounds should be broadly useful as biological tools for evaluating the roles of HATs in transcriptional studies and may serve as lead agents for the development of novel antineoplastic therapeutics.