Proto-oncogenes encode proteins with three main sites of action: the cell-surface membrane, the cytoplasm and the nucleus. Although the exact biochemical function of most proto-oncogene products is not understood, several of them are known to be involved in signal transduction. A role in gene regulation through DNA binding has been suggested for a recently isolated member of the group of oncogenes acting at the nucleus, v-jun. The C-terminus of the putative v-jun-encoded protein is similar in sequence to the C-terminus of the yeast transcriptional activator GCN4 (refs 8, 9), which forms its minimal DNA-binding domain. GCN4 binds to specific sites whose consensus sequence is highly similar to the recognition sequence of the mammalian transcriptional activator AP-1 (refs 12, 13). Like GCN4, AP-1 binds to promoter elements of specific genes and activates their transcription. Because of the similarity between the recognition sites for GCN4 and AP-1, we examined the possibility that AP-1 could be the product of the c-jun proto-oncogene. The experimental results reported here indicate that the JUN oncoprotein is a sequence-specific transcriptional activator similar to AP-1.