The general transcription factor TFIID sets the mRNA start site and consists of TATA-binding protein and associated factors (TAF(II)s), some of which are also present in SPT-ADA-GCN5 (SAGA)-related complexes. In yeast, results of multiple studies indicate that TFIID-specific TAF(II)s are not required for the transcription of most genes, implying that intact TFIID may have a surprisingly specialized role in transcription. Relatively little is known about how TAF(II)s contribute to metazoan transcription in vivo, especially at developmental and tissue-specific genes. Previously, we investigated functions of four shared TFIID/SAGA TAF(II)s in Caenorhabditis elegans. Whereas TAF-4 was required for essentially all embryonic transcription, TAF-5, TAF-9, and TAF-10 were dispensable at multiple developmental and other metazoan-specific promoters. Here we show evidence that in C. elegans embryos transcription of most genes requires TFIID-specific TAF-1. TAF-1 is not as universally required as TAF-4, but it is essential for a greater proportion of transcription than TAF-5, -9, or -10 and is important for transcription of many developmental and other metazoan-specific genes. TAF-2, which binds core promoters with TAF-1, appears to be required for a similarly substantial proportion of transcription. C. elegans TAF-1 overlaps functionally with the coactivator p300/CBP (CBP-1), and at some genes it is required along with the TBP-like protein TLF(TRF2). We conclude that during C. elegans embryogenesis TAF-1 and TFIID have broad roles in transcription and development and that TFIID and TLF may act together at certain promoters. Our findings imply that in metazoans TFIID may be of widespread importance for transcription and for expression of tissue-specific genes.