Although it has been well established that histone acetyltransferases (HATs) are involved in the modulation of chromatin structure and gene transcription, there is only little information on their developmental role in higher organisms. Gcn5 was the first transcription factor with HAT activity identified in eukaryotes. Here we report the isolation and characterization of Drosophila melanogaster dGcn5 mutants. Null dGcn5 alleles block the onset of both oogenesis and metamorphosis, while hypomorphic dGcn5 alleles impair the formation of adult appendages and cuticle. Strikingly, the dramatic loss of acetylation of the K9 and K14 lysine residues of histone H3 in dGcn5 mutants has no noticeable effect on larval tissues. In contrast, strong cell proliferation defects in imaginal tissues are observed. In vivo complementation experiments revealed that dGcn5 integrates specific functions in addition to chromosome binding and acetylation. Surprisingly, a dGcn5 variant protein with a deletion of the bromodomain, which has been shown to recognize acetylated histones, appears to be fully functional. Our results establish dGcn5 as a major histone H3 acetylase in Drosophila which plays a key role in the control of specific morphogenetic cascades during developmental transitions.