Activation of the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) lytic cycle is mediated through the combined actions of ZEBRA and Rta, the products of the viral BZLF1 and BRLF1 genes. During latency, these two genes are tightly repressed. Histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi) can activate viral lytic gene expression. Therefore, a widely held hypothesis is that Zp and Rp, the promoters for BZLF1 and BRLF1, are repressed by chromatin and that hyperacetylation of histone tails, by allowing the access of positively acting factors, leads to transcription of BZLF1 and BRLF1. To investigate this hypothesis, we used chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) to examine the acetylation and phosphorylation states of histones H3 and H4 on Zp and Rp in three cell lines, Raji, B95-8, and HH514-16, which differ in their response to EBV lytic induction by HDACi. We studied the effects of three HDACi, sodium butyrate (NaB), trichostatin A (TSA), and valproic acid (VPA). We also examined the effects of tetradecanoyl phorbol acetate (TPA) and 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine, a DNA methyltransferase inhibitor, on histone modification. In Raji cells, TPA and NaB act synergistically to activate the EBV lytic cycle and promote an increase in histone H3 and H4 acetylation and phosphorylation at Zp and Rp. Surprisingly, however, when Raji cells were treated with NaB or TSA, neither of which is sufficient to activate the lytic cycle, an increase of comparable magnitude of hyperacetylated and phosphorylated histone H3 at Zp and Rp was observed. In B95-8 cells, NaB inhibited lytic induction by TPA, yet NaB promoted hyperacetylation of H3 and H4. In HH514-16 cells, NaB and TSA strongly activated the EBV lytic cycle and caused hyperacetylation of histone H3 on Zp and Rp. However, when HH514-16 cells were treated with VPA, lytic cycle mRNAs or proteins were not induced, although histone H3 was hyperacetylated as measured by immunoblotting or by ChIP on Zp and Rp. Taken together, our data suggest that open chromatin at EBV BZLF1 and BRLF1 promoters is not sufficient to activate EBV lytic cycle gene expression.