Multiple histone-modifying enzymes have been identified in the past several years. Much has been learned regarding the biochemistry of these enzymes and their effects on gene expression in cultured cells. However, the functions of these factors during development are still largely unknown. Recent genetic studies indicate that specific histone modifications and modifying enzymes play essential roles in both global and tissue-specific chromatin organization. In particular, these studies indicate that enzymes that control levels and patterns of histone acetylation and methylation are required for normal embryo patterning, organogenesis, and survival.