Bromodomain protein 4 (BRD4) is a chromatin-binding protein implicated in cancer and autoimmune diseases that functions as a scaffold for transcription factors at promoters and super-enhancers. Although chromatin decompaction and transcriptional activation of target genes are associated with BRD4 binding, the mechanisms involved are unknown. We report that BRD4 is a histone acetyltransferase (HAT) that acetylates histones H3 and H4 with a pattern distinct from those of other HATs. Both mouse and human BRD4 have intrinsic HAT activity. Importantly, BRD4 acetylates H3 K122, a residue critical for nucleosome stability, thus resulting in nucleosome eviction and chromatin decompaction. Nucleosome clearance by BRD4 occurs genome wide, including at its targets MYC, FOS and AURKB (Aurora B kinase), resulting in increased transcription. These findings suggest a model wherein BRD4 actively links chromatin structure and transcription: it mediates chromatin decompaction by acetylating and evicting nucleosomes at target genes, thereby activating transcription.