Protein lysine acetyltransferases (HATs or PATs) acetylate histones and other proteins, and are principally modeled as transcriptional coactivators. CREB binding protein (CBP, CREBBP) and its paralog p300 (EP300) constitute the KAT3 family of HATs in mammals, which has mostly unique sequence identity compared to other HAT families. Although studies in yeast show that many histone mutations cause modest or specific phenotypes, similar studies are impractical in mammals and it remains uncertain if histone acetylation is the primary physiological function for CBP/p300. Nonetheless, CBP and p300 mutations in humans and mice show that these coactivators have important roles in development, physiology, and disease, possibly because CBP and p300 act as network “hubs” with more than 400 described protein interaction partners. Analysis of CBP and p300 mutant mouse fibroblasts reveals CBP/p300 are together chiefly responsible for the global acetylation of histone H3 residues K18 and K27, and contribute to other locus-specific histone acetylation events. CBP/p300 can also be important for transcription, but the recruitment of CBP/p300 and their associated histone acetylation marks do not absolutely correlate with a requirement for gene activation. Rather, it appears that target gene context (e.g. DNA sequence) influences the extent to which CBP and p300 are necessary for transcription.