The action of multi-subunit complexes that are able to overcome the repressive effects of chromatin is an important step in the regulation of eukaryotic gene expression. Identification of complexes that modify the structure of chromatin to help factors access the underlying DNA has enhanced our understanding of how some genes are controlled. Histone acetyltransferases (HATs) and histone deacetylases (HDACs) represent one group of complexes that regulate the level of acetylation on the N-terminal tails of core histone proteins. The SWI/SNF complex is the prototype of a second group of complexes, which use the energy of ATP-hydrolysis to alter histone-DNA contacts, leading to changes in chromatin conformation. Genetic studies in yeast have revealed that some of these multi-subunit complexes interact in vivo to control transcription of a subset of genes. It has become apparent that some gene promoters require modifications by both types of complexes. An important question regarding these two types of complexes is how they are recruited to the promoters of genes that are dependent on their activity for their expression. This review will tie together many studies on promoter recruitment of both HATs and SWI/SNF. Emphasis will be placed on recent data that demonstrates functional interplay between these two types of chromatin-remodeling activities. In addition, this review summarizes recent data demonstrating the ability of repressors and corepressors to recruit histone deacetylase complexes. Interestingly, many subunits of chromatin-modifying complexes in humans have been implicated in the development of cancer. Thus, studying how these complexes work can help us better understand human diseases.