Gene activation in higher eukaryotes requires the concerted action of transcription factors and coactivator proteins. Coactivators exist in multiprotein complexes that dock on transcription factors and modify chromatin, allowing effective transcription to take place. While biological control focused at the level of the transcription factor is very common, it is now quite clear that a substantial component of gene control is directed at the expression of coactivators, involving pathways as diverse as B-cell development, smooth muscle differentiation, and hepatic gluconeogenesis. Quantitative control of coactivators allows the functional integration of multiple transcription factors and facilitates the formation of distinct biological programs. This coordination and acceleration of different steps in linked pathways has important kinetic considerations, enabling outputs of particular pathways to be increased far more than would otherwise be possible. These kinetic aspects suggest opportunities and concerns as coactivators become targets of therapeutic intervention.