The yeast GCN4 gene product is necessary for the transcriptional induction of many amino acid biosynthetic genes in response to conditions of amino acid starvation. We synthesized radioactively pure GCN4 protein by in vitro translation of mRNA produced by in vitro transcription with SP6 RNA polymerase. GCN4 protein binds specifically to the 20 bp region of the HIS3 gene that is critical for transcriptional regulation in vivo and contains the TGACTC sequence common to coregulated genes. A synthetic GCN4 mutant protein lacking the 40 C-terminal amino acids fails to bind DNA; this correlates with a gcn4 mutant gene that is nonfunctional in vivo. Finally, GCN4 protein binds to the promoter regions of coordinately regulated genes, but not to analogous regions of other genes. We suggest that GCN4 protein is a specific transcription factor, and we describe a molecular model for the general control of amino acid biosynthetic genes.