Oct-4 is a transcription factor expressed in the pluripotent progenitor cells of the early mouse embryo. Additional factors are required for the distal activation of genes in differentiated cells containing ectopically expressed Oct-4. Here we show that Oct-4 and E1A are sufficient for distance-independent activation of the basal transcription machinery. The ratio of Oct-4 to E1A is critical for transcriptional activation, because higher levels of either factor are less efficient. Activation depends on a transactivation domain linked to the POU domain of Oct-4 and also on the conserved domain 3 of the 289RE1A protein. This domain is required for binding to the C-terminal part of Oct-4 including the POU domain. Our results indicate that E1A can serve as a bridging factor between Oct-4 and the basal initiation complex, and we postulate that an E1A-like factor acts as a cellular bridging factor of Oct-4 in pluripotent cells.