The ordered assembly of immunoglobulin and TCR genes by V(D)J recombination depends on the regulated accessibility of individual loci. We show here that the histone tails and intrinsic nucleosome structure pose significant impediments to V(D)J cleavage. However, alterations to nucleosome structure via histone acetylation or by stable hSWI/SNF-dependent remodeling greatly increase the accessibility of nucleosomal DNA to V(D)J cleavage. Moreover, acetylation and hSWI/SNF remodeling can act in concert on an individual nucleosome to achieve levels of V(D)J cleavage approaching those observed on naked DNA. These results are consistent with a model in which regulated recruitment of chromatin modifying activities is involved in mediating the lineage and stage-specific control of V(D)J recombination.