Unlike Saccharomyces cerevisiae RNA polymerase III, human RNA polymerase III has not been entirely characterized. Orthologues of the yeast RNA polymerase III subunits C128 and C37 remain unidentified, and for many of the other subunits, the available information is limited to database sequences with various degrees of similarity to the yeast subunits. We have purified an RNA polymerase III complex and identified its components. We found that two RNA polymerase III subunits, referred to as RPC8 and RPC9, displayed sequence similarity to the RNA polymerase II RPB7 and RPB4 subunits, respectively. RPC8 and RPC9 associated with each other, paralleling the association of the RNA polymerase II subunits, and were thus paralogues of RPB7 and RPB4. Furthermore, the complex contained a prominent 80-kDa polypeptide, which we called RPC5 and which corresponded to the human orthologue of the yeast C37 subunit despite limited sequence similarity. RPC5 associated with RPC53, the human orthologue of S. cerevisiae C53, paralleling the association of the S. cerevisiae C37 and C53 subunits, and was required for transcription from the type 2 VAI and type 3 human U6 promoters. Our results provide a characterization of human RNA polymerase III and show that the RPC5 subunit is essential for transcription.