A eukaryotic chromosome contains many genes, each transcribed separately by RNA polymerase (pol) I, II or III. Transcription termination between genes prevents the formation of polycistronic RNAs and anti-sense RNAs, which are generally detrimental to the correct expression of genes. Terminating the transcription of protein-coding genes by pol II requires a group of proteins that also direct cleavage and polyadenylation of the messenger RNA in response to a specific sequence element, and are associated with the carboxyl-terminal domain of the largest subunit of pol II (refs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). By contrast, the cis-acting elements and trans-acting factors that direct termination of non-polyadenylated transcripts made by pol II, including small nucleolar and small nuclear RNAs, are not known. Here we show that read-through transcription from yeast small nucleolar RNA and small nuclear RNA genes into adjacent genes is prevented by a cis-acting element that is recognized, in part, by the essential RNA-binding protein Nrd1. The RNA-binding protein Nab3, the putative RNA helicase Sen1, and the intact C-terminal domain of pol II are also required for efficient response to the element. The same proteins are required for maintaining normal levels of Nrd1 mRNA, indicating that these proteins may control elongation of a subset of mRNA transcripts.