Mechanisms by which the human T-cell leukemia virus type I Tax oncoprotein activates NF-kappaB remain incompletely understood. Although others have described an interaction between Tax and a holo-IkappaB kinase (IKK) complex, the exact details of protein-protein contact are not fully defined. Here we show that Tax binds to neither IKK-alpha nor IKK-beta but instead complexes directly with IKK-gamma, a newly characterized component of the IKK complex. This direct interaction with IKK-gamma correlates with Tax-induced IkappaB-alpha phosphorylation and NF-kappaB activation. Thus, our findings establish IKK-gamma as a key molecule for adapting an oncoprotein-specific signaling to IKK-alpha and IKK-beta.