The homeo domain of the Oct-1 transcription factor directs formation of a multiprotein-DNA complex containing Oct-1, the herpes simplex virus (HSV) trans-activator VP16, and a second host cell factor (HCF). This VP16-induced complex alters the regulatory activity of Oct-1, in part, by associating it with the potent VP16 acidic transcriptional activation domain. Here, we show that in the absence of HCF, VP16 can recognize specifically the Oct-1 homeo domain. A region of VP16 near the acidic activation domain appears to be involved exclusively in homeo domain recognition because a 4-amino-acid insertion within this region only affects the ability of VP16 to interact with Oct-1, leaving its DNA- and HCF-binding activities unchanged. A 33-amino-acid peptide containing this region complexes with the Oct-1 POU domain bound to DNA, suggesting that this VP16 region contains an autonomous homeo domain recognition subdomain.