The transcription factor E2F regulates the expression of genes involved in the progression of G1/S transition and DNA replication in mammalian cells. We cloned and characterized a cDNA (NtE2F) corresponding to a E2F homolog of tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum). The transcription of NtE2F was induced as cells progressed from G1 to the S phase and expressed much earlier than that of the proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) gene. We demonstrated that NtE2F can interact with the tobacco retinoblastoma (Rb)-related protein in a yeast two-hybrid assay. To further characterize NtE2F, the trans-activation activity of NtE2F was examined by using a transient assay in the tobacco Bright Yellow-2 (BY-2) cells with NtE2F fused to the DNA-binding domain of the veast transcriptional activator GAL4. NtE2F activated the transcription of the beta-glucuronidase (GUS) reporter gene driven by a cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) 35S core promoter containing the GAL4-binding sequence. This is the first report of the identification of a functionally equivalent E2F-like gene in plants.