Changes in histone acetylation at promoters correlate with transcriptional activation and repression, but whether acetylation of histones in the coding region of genes is important for transcription is less clear. Here, we show that cells lacking the histone acetyltransferases Gcn5 and Elp3 have widespread and severe histone H3 hypoacetylation in chromatin. Surprisingly, severe hypoacetylation in the promoter does not invariably affect the ability of TBP to bind the TATA element, or transcription of the gene. By contrast, similar hypoacetylation of the coding region correlates with inhibition of transcription, and inhibition correlates better with the overall charge of the histone H3 tail than with hypoacetylation of specific lysine residues. These data provide insights into the effects of histone H3 hypoacetylation in vivo and underscore the importance of the overall charge of the histone tail for transcription.