Site-specific protein-DNA photo-cross-linking was used to show that, when bound to its cognate site at various distances upstream of the TATA element, the chimeric transcriptional activator GAL4-VP16 can physically interact with a TATA box-binding protein (TBP)- transcription factor IIA (TFIIA)-TFIIB complex assembled on the TATA element. This result implies DNA bending and looping of promoter DNA as a result of the physical interaction between GAL4-VP16 and an interface of the TBP-TFIIA-TFIIB complex. This protein-protein interaction on promoter DNA minimally requires the presence of one GAL4 binding site and the formation of a quaternary complex containing TBP, TFIIB, and TFIIA on the TATA element. Notably, the topology of the TBP-TFIIA-TFIIB-promoter complex is not altered significantly by the interaction with DNA-bound activators. We also show that the ability of GAL4-VP16 to activate transcription through a single GAL4 binding site varies according to its precise location and orientation relative to the TATA element and that it can approach the efficiency obtained with multiple binding sites. Taken together, our results indicate that the spatial positioning of the DNA-bound activation domain is important for efficient activation, possibly by maximizing its interactions with the transcriptional machinery including the TBP-TFIIA-TFIIB-promoter quaternary complex.