The enhancers of several distinct viruses contain a common functional element, termed EP. This element binds ubiquitous cellular proteins and generates specific complexes in gel retardation analysis. Ultraviolet cross-linking and Southwestern analysis showed that a 140 kd polypeptide is the major EP DNA-binding protein. Using a combination of DNA binding and immunological techniques, we have identified the c-abl protein in a nuclear complex that binds to the EP element. abl was found to have both a specific and high affinity DNA binding activity. The ability to bind DNA is abolished in the mutant abl protein, p210bcr-abl, consistent with its cytoplasmic localization in chronic myelogenous leukemia.