The TATA-binding protein (TBP)-related factor TRF1, has been described in Drosophila and a related protein, TRF2, has been found in a variety of higher eukaryotes. We report that human (h)TRF2 is encoded by two mRNAs with common protein coding but distinct 5' nontranslated regions. One mRNA is expressed ubiquitously (hTRF2-mRNA1), whereas the other (hTRF2-mRNA2) shows a restricted expression pattern and is extremely abundant in testis. In addition, we show that hTRF2 forms a stable stoichiometric complex with hTFIIA, but not with TAFs, in HeLa cells stably transfected with flag-tagged hTRF2. Neither recombinant human (rh)TRF2 nor the native flag.hTRF2-TFIIA complex is able to replace TBP or TFIID in basal or activated transcription from various RNA polymerase II promoters. Instead, rhTRF2, but not the flag.hTRF2-TFIIA complex, moderately inhibits basal or activated transcription in the presence of rhTBP or flag.TFIID. This effect is either completely (TBP-mediated transcription) or partially (TFIID-mediated transcription) counteracted by addition of free TFIIA. Neither rhTRF2 nor flag. hTRF2-TFIIA has any effect on the repression of TFIID-mediated transcription by negative cofactor-2 (NC2) and neither substitutes for TBP in RNA polymerase III-mediated transcription.