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The human immunodeficiency virus type 1 promoter generates two types of RNA molecules, full-length transcripts and short transcripts. Synthesis of the short transcripts depends on the inducer of short transcripts (IST), an element located downstream of the start site. In the presence of the viral activator Tat, the synthesis of full-length transcripts is up-regulated while that of short transcripts is down-regulated. Full-length and short transcripts are probably generated by different types of transcription complexes. The first is IST independent, capable of efficient elongation, and up-regulated by Tat. The second is IST dependent, incapable of efficient elongation, and down-regulated by Tat. We have used an in vivo assay to assess the role of TBP in human immunodeficiency virus type I transcription and to test the effect of mutations in TBP on synthesis of full-length and short transcripts. We find that TBP bound to the TATA box is required for the synthesis of short and full-length transcripts as well as for Tat activation and that both yeast TBP and the carboxy-terminal domain of human TBP can replace full-length human TBP for these processes. Mutations in TBP affect the synthesis of short and full-length transcripts as well as Tat activation similarly, and these effects correlate with the previously described effects of these mutations on binding of TBP to the TBP-associated factor TAFII250 in vitro. Together, these results suggest that if short and full-length transcripts are generated by variant transcription complexes, these complexes use TBP similarly, probably as part of the TFIID complex.