In this study, histone H4 was shown to be extensively hyperacetylated in mid-spermatids of the rat during the time period when the entire complement of histones is replaced by basic spermatidal transition proteins. The degree of hyperacetylation of histone H4 was minimal in pachytene spermatocytes. Therefore, the hyperacetylation appears to be directly involved in the histone replacement process late in spermatogenesis in mid-spermatids. In order to investigate further the possible effects of histone H4 hyperacetylation and the other dramatic changes in the nuclear proteins on the structure of chromatin in germinal cells, we examined the thermal denaturation profiles of chromatin from various purified germinal cell types. Our analyses revealed that chromatins from pachytene spermatocytes and early spermatids have similar thermal denaturation profiles, with their major thermal transitions slightly lower than those for rat liver. However, the major thermal transitions for chromatin from mid-spermatids are much lower than those from pachytene spermatocytes and early-spermatids. We propose that the greatly lowered thermal stability of mid-spermatid chromatin represents a dramatic relaxation or decondensation of the chromatin in this cell type in preparation for the replacement of histone by the basic spermatidal transition proteins and that the decondensation is due in large part to the extensive histones hyperacetylation which occurs in these cells.