Although the acetylation of histones has a well-documented regulatory role in transcription, its role in other chromosomal functions remains largely unexplored. Here we show that distinct patterns of histone H4 acetylation are essential in two separate pathways of double-strand break repair. A budding yeast strain with mutations in wild-type H4 acetylation sites shows defects in nonhomologous end joining repair and in a newly described pathway of replication-coupled repair. Both pathways require the ESA1 histone acetyl transferase (HAT), which is responsible for acetylating all H4 tail lysines, including ectopic lysines that restore repair capacity to a mutant H4 tail. Arp4, a protein that binds histone H4 tails and is part of the Esa1-containing NuA4 HAT complex, is recruited specifically to DNA double-strand breaks that are generated in vivo. The purified Esa1-Arp4 HAT complex acetylates linear nucleosomal arrays with far greater efficiency than circular arrays in vitro, indicating that it preferentially acetylates nucleosomes near a break site. Together, our data show that histone tail acetylation is required directly for DNA repair and suggest that a related human HAT complex may function similarly.