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Although the mechanisms of transcriptional regulation by RNA polymerase II are apparently highly conserved from yeast to man, the identification of a yeast TATA-binding protein (TBP)-TBP-associated factor (TAFII) complex comparable to the metazoan TFIID component of the basal transcriptional machinery has remained elusive. Here, we report the isolation of a yeast TBP-TAFII complex which can mediate transcriptional activation by GAL4-VP16 in a highly purified yeast in vitro transcription system. We have cloned and sequenced the genes encoding four of the multiple yeast TAFII proteins comprising the TBP-TAFII multisubunit complex and find that they are similar at the amino acid level to both human and Drosophila TFIID subunits. Using epitope-tagging and immunoprecipitation experiments, we demonstrate that these genes encode bona fide TAF proteins and show that the yeast TBP-TAFII complex is minimally composed of TBP and seven distinct yTAFII proteins ranging in size from M(r) = 150,000 to M(r) = 25,000. In addition, by constructing null alleles of the cloned TAF-encoding genes, we show that normal function of the TAF-encoding genes is essential for yeast cell viability.