Enhancer factor I (EFI) is a trans-acting factor which binds to the Rous sarcoma virus long terminal repeat enhancer and promoter at two inverted CCAAT-box motifs. We demonstrate that two forms of EFI DNA binding activity exist in nuclear extracts of avian cells. One form requires two heterologous components (EFIA)(EFIB) for high affinity, specific DNA binding activity, whereas a second form is not dependent on EFIB for binding and may be composed solely of EFIA, perhaps as a multimer. Both forms give rise to the same mobility shift in gel retardation assays, but the two forms can be separated chromatographically under buffer conditions which stabilize the two DNA binding activities. A cDNA for EFIA has been isolated from a rat liver cDNA expression library. The 1489-base pair EFIA cDNA encodes a 322-amino acid protein which is nearly identical to two previously described human DNA binding proteins. These are dbpB, a DNA binding protein of unknown specificity which binds to the epidermal growth factor receptor enhancer and c-erbB-2 gene promoter (Sakura, H., Maekawa, T., Imamoto, F., Yasuda, K., and Ishii, S. (1988) Gene (Amst.) 73, 499-507), and YB-1, a protein which recognizes the Y-box (inverted CCAAT motif) of the HLA-DR alpha chain gene (Didier, D. K., Schiffenbauer, J., Woulfe, S. L., Zacheis, M., and Schwartz, B. D. (1988) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 85, 7322-7326). EFIA/dbpB/YB-1 share a highly conserved region of 100 amino acids with dbpA, another protein identified by Sakura et al. (1988) which binds to the epidermal growth factor receptor enhancer and c-erbB-2 gene promoter, and with two Xenopus CCAAT binding proteins, FRG Y1 and FRG Y2 (Tafuri, S. R., and Wolffe, A. P. (1990) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A., in press). This highly conserved domain among all six proteins is presumed to represent or contain a DNA binding domain for the CCAAT motif. In addition, we note that the EFIA/dbpB/YB-1 polypeptide contains a novel arrangement of alternating clusters of positively and negatively charged amino acids not yet reported for any trans-acting factor. The functional significance of this novel structural motif, which is also conserved in dbpA, FRG Y1, and FRG Y2, will be discussed.