An important goal is to identify the direct activation domain (AD)-interacting components of the transcriptional machinery within the context of native complexes. Toward this end, we first demonstrate that the multisubunit TFIID, SAGA, mediator, and Swi/Snf coactivator complexes from transcriptionally competent whole-cell yeast extracts were all capable of specifically interacting with the prototypic acidic ADs of Gal4 and VP16. We then used hexahistidine tags as genetically introduced activation domain-localized cross-linking receptors. In combination with immunological reagents against all subunits of TFIID and SAGA, we systematically identified the direct AD-interacting subunits within the AD-TFIID and AD-SAGA coactivator complexes enriched from whole-cell extracts and confirmed these results using purified TFIID and partially purified SAGA. Both ADs directly cross-linked to TBP and to a subset of TFIID and SAGA subunits that carry histone-fold motifs.