We have identified a human homolog of the Drosophila trithorax protein that is structurally altered by 11q23 translocations in acute leukemias. Human trithorax (HRX) is a predicted 431 kd protein containing two potential DNA-binding motifs consisting of zinc fingers conserved with the fly protein and nonconserved amino-terminal "AT hook" motifs related to the DNA-binding motifs in HMG proteins. 11q23 translocations disrupt the HRX gene between these two motifs, and in a t(11;19)-carrying cell line fusion transcripts are expressed from both derivative chromosomes. The more abundant derivative 11 transcript codes for a chimeric protein containing the AT hook motifs fused to a previously undescribed protein (ENL) from chromosome 19. These data suggest a novel role for a trithorax-homologous protein in multilineage human leukemias that may be mediated by DNA binding within the minor groove at AT-rich sites, implicated to play an important role in bacterial IHF-, yeast datin-, and mammalian HMG-mediated gene activation.