Precise transcriptional networks drive the orchestration and execution of complex developmental processes. Transcription factors possessing sequence-specific DNA binding properties activate or repress target genes in a step-wise manner to control most cell lineage decisions. This regulation often requires the interaction between transcription factors and subunits of massive protein complexes that bear enzymatic activities towards histones. The functional coupling of transcription proteins and histone modifiers underscores the importance of transcriptional regulation through chromatin modification in developmental cell fate decisions and in disease pathogenesis. © 2012 Future Medicine Ltd.