CHROMATIN structure can affect the transcriptional activity of eukaryotic structural genes by blocking access of sequence-specific activator proteins (activators) to their promoter-binding sites. For example, the DNA-binding domain of the yeast GAL4 protein interacts very poorly with nucleosome cores compared with naked DNA2 (and see below), and binding of other activators is even more strongly inhibited. The way in which activators bind to nucleosomal DNA is therefore a critical aspect of transcriptional activation. Genetic studies have suggested that the multi-component SWI/SNF complex of Saccharomyces cerevisiae facilitates transcription by altering the structure of the chromatin. Here we identify and partially purify a human homologue of the yeast SWI/SNF complex (hSWI/SNF complex). We show that a partially purified hSWI/SNF complex mediates the ATP-dependent disruption of a nucleosome, thereby enabling the activators, GAL4-VP16 and GAL4-AH, to bind within a nucleosome core. We conclude that the hSWI/SNF complex acts directly to reorganize chromatin structure so as to facilitate binding of transcription factors.