Reversible acetylation at the epsilon-amino group of lysines located at the conserved domain of core histones is supposed to play an important role in the regulation of chromatin structure and its transcriptional activity. One promising strategy for analyzing the precise function of histone acetylation is to block the activities of acetylating or deacetylating enzymes by specific inhibitors. Recently, two microbial metabolites, trichostatin A and trapoxin, were found to be potent inhibitors of histone deacetylases. Trichostatin A reversibly inhibits the mammalian histone deacetylase, whereas trapoxin causes inhibition through irreversible binding to the enzyme. The histone deacetylase from a trichostatin A-resistant cell line is resistant to trichostatin A, indicating that the enzyme is the primary target. Both of the agents induce a variety of biological responses of cells such as induction of differentiation and cell cycle arrest. Trichostatin A and trapoxin are useful in analyzing the role of histone acetylation in chromatin structure and function as well as in determining the genes whose activities are regulated by histone acetylation.