We have monitored histone acetylation during conjugation of the ciliated protozoan Tetrahymena thermophila using antibodies against the tetraacetylated form of H4 histone (Pfeffer, U., N. Ferrari, and G. Vidali. 1986. J. Biol. Chem. 261:2496-2498). During meiosis, the three prezygotic divisions, fertilization, and the first postzygotic division, micronuclei, do not contain highly acetylated forms of H4 histone. However, after the second postzygotic division, when anteriorly located micronuclei begin to develop into new macronuclei, they are strongly stained by the anti-tetraacetylated H4 histone antibody. In the old macronucleus, histones are actively deacetylated when it has ceased to transcribe but before it is eliminated. Histone acetylation processes analyzed here appear to be correlated to the commitment to transcription rather than to the transcription process itself. This is in good correlation with evidence we have obtained in chick erythrocyte nuclei during reactivation upon fusion with mammalian cells (Pfeffer, U., N. Ferrari, F. Tosetti, and G. Vidali. 1988. Exp. Cell Res. 178:25-30). Furthermore, it becomes clear from our data that histone acetylation occurs in close correlation to the position of nuclei within the cytoplasm of T. thermophila. Mechanisms that control differential histone acetylation and deacetylation are discussed.