The N-terminus of the yeast transcriptional activator GAL4 contains partially overlapping nuclear targeting and DNA binding functions. We have previously shown that GAL4 is recognised with high affinity by importin beta and not by the conventional nuclear localisation sequence binding importin alpha subunit of the importin alpha/beta heterodimer. The present study uses ELISA-based binding and electrophoretic mobility shift assays to show that recognition of GAL4 by importin alpha can occur, but only when GAL4 is bound to its specific DNA recognition sequence. Intriguingly, binding by importin alpha enhances DNA binding on the part of GAL4, implying a synergistic co-operation between these two functions. The results implicate a possible role for importin alpha in the nucleus additional to its established role in nuclear transport, as well as having implications for the use of GAL4 as a DNA carrier in gene therapy applications.