An array of tandem heptapeptide repeats at the carboxy-terminal domain (CTD) of the largest subunit of RNA polymerase II constitute a highly conserved structure essential for viability. Studies have established that the CTD is phosphorylated at different stages of the transcription cycle, and that it may be involved in transcriptional regulation. The exact role of the CTD remains elusive, as in vitro reconstituted transcription using the adenovirus major late promoter does not require the CTD. Previous studies showed that transcription from the murine dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) promoter can be only accomplished by the form of RNA polymerase II that contains the hypophosphorylated CTD (RNAPIIA), but not by the form that lacks it (RNAPIIB). Here we show that the CTD, but not its phosphorylation, is required for initiation of transcription. We also show that transcription requires CTD kinase activity provided by the CDK subunit of TFIIH.