Pericentric heterochromatin is a highly compacted structure required for accurate chromosome segregation in mitosis. In mammals, it relies on methylation of histone H3K9 by Suv39H enzymes, which provides a docking site for HP1 proteins, therefore mediating heterochromatin compaction. Here we show that, when this normal compaction pathway is defective, the histone acetyltransferase Tip60 is recruited to pericentric heterochromatin, where it mediates acetylation of histone H4K12. Furthermore, in such a context, depletion of Tip60 leads to derepression of satellite transcription, decompaction of pericentric heterochromatin, and defects in chromosome segregation in mitosis. Finally, we show that depletion of BRD2, a double bromodomain-containing protein that binds H4K12ac, phenocopies the Tip60 depletion with respect to heterochromatin decompaction and defects in chromosome segregation. Taking the results together, we identify a new compaction pathway of mammalian pericentric heterochromatin relying on Tip60 that might be dependent on BRD2 recruitment by H4K12 acetylation. We propose that the underexpression of Tip60 observed in many human tumors can promote genetic instability via defective pericentric heterochromatin.