Interaction between the TATA box-binding protein TBP and TFIIB is critical for transcription in vitro. An altered-specificity TBP-TFIIB interaction was rationally designed and linked in sequence to an altered-specificity TATA box-TBP interaction to study how TBP and TFIIB function together to support transcription in human cells. The activity of this altered-specificity TATA-TBP-TFIIB array demonstrated that many activators use the known TBP-TFIIB interaction to stimulate transcription. One activator, however, derived from a glutamine-rich activation domain of Sp1, activated transcription independently of this interaction. These results reveal that selectivity in activator function in vivo can be achieved through differential use of TBP and TFIIB.