The large subunit of RNA polymerase II contains a highly conserved and essential heptapeptide repeat (Pro-Thr-Ser-Pro-Ser-Tyr-Ser) at its carboxy terminus. Saccharomyces cerevisiae cells are inviable if their RNA polymerase II large subunit genes encode fewer than 10 complete heptapeptide repeats; if they encode 10 to 12 complete repeats cells are temperature-sensitive and cold-sensitive, but 13 or more complete repeats will allow wild-type growth at all temperatures. Cells containing C-terminal domains (CTDs) of 10 to 12 complete repeats are also inositol auxotrophs. The phenotypes associated with these CTD mutations are not a consequence of an instability of the large subunit; rather, they seem to reflect a functional deficiency of the mutant enzyme. We show here that partial deletion mutations in RNA polymerase II CTD affect the ability of the enzyme to respond to signals from upstream activating sequences in a subset of promoters in yeast. The number of heptapeptide repeats required for maximal response to signals from these sequences differs from one upstream activating sequence to another. One of the upstream elements that is sensitive to truncations of the CTD is the 17-base-pair site bound by the GAL4 transactivating factor.