RAP30/74 (also known as TFIIF, beta gamma and FC is one of several general factors required for initiation by RNA polymerase II. The small RAP30 subunit of RAP30/74 binds directly to polymerase and appears structurally and functionally homologous to bacterial sigma factors in their RNA polymerase-binding region. RAP30/74 or recombinant RAP30 suppresses nonspecific binding of RNA polymerase II to DNA and is required for RNA polymerase II to assemble stably into a preinitiation complex containing promoter DNA and the general factors TFIID, TFIIA and TFIIB; both RAP30 and RAP74 are physical components of the preinitiation complex. A complementary DNA encoding human RAP30 has been isolated, and here we report the isolation of a cDNA encoding human RAP74. RAP30 and RAP74 produced in Escherichia coli can be used in place of natural human RAP30/74 to direct accurate transcription initiation by RNA polymerase II in vitro.