The carboxy-terminal domain (CTD) of the largest subunit of RNA polymerase II consists of tandem repeats of a heptapeptide with the consensus YSPTSPS. It has been shown that the heptapeptide repeat interacts directly with the general transcription factor TFIID. We report here that the CTD activates transcription when fused to the DNA-binding domain of GAL4. More importantly, we find that the proline-rich transcriptional activation domain of the CCAAT-box-binding factor CTF/NF1 contains a sequence with striking similarity to the heptapeptide repeats of the CTD. We show that this CTD-like motif is essential for the transcriptional activator function of the proline-rich domain of CTF/NF1. Deletion of and point mutations in this CTD-like motif abolish the transcriptional activator function of the proline-rich domain, while natural CTD repeats from RNA polymerase II are fully functional in place of the CTD-like motif. We further show that the proline-rich activation domain of CTF/NF1 interacts directly with the TATA-box-binding protein (TBP), and that a mutation in the CTD-like motif that abolishes transcriptional activation reduces the affinity of the proline-rich domain for TBP. These results demonstrate that a class of proline-rich activator proteins and RNA polymerase II possess a common structural and functional component which can interact with the same target in the general transcription machinery. We discuss the implications of these results for the mechanisms of transcriptional activation in eucaryotes.