The human RNA polymerase II and III snRNA promoters share a common basal element, the proximal sequence element (PSE), which is recognized by a complex we refer to as the snRNA-activating protein complex (SNAPc). Biochemical purifications suggest that SNAPc is composed of at least four polypeptides of 43, 45, 50 and 190 kDa, as well as variable amounts of the TATA box binding protein, TBP. cDNAs encoding the 43 and 45 kDa subunits, SNAP43 and SNAP45, have been isolated, but there is no evidence that either of these subunits contacts DNA. Here we report the isolation of cDNAs encoding the 50 kDa subunit of SNAPc, SNAP50. The open reading frame predicts a 411 amino acid protein, which contains two potential zinc finger motifs. Depletions with anti-SNAP50 antibodies inhibit RNA polymerase II and III snRNA gene transcription in vitro. SNAP50 interacts with SNAP43 in co-immunoprecipitation experiments, but not with SNAP45 or TBP. UV cross-linking experiments suggest that SNAP50 contacts DNA in the SNAP complex. These results are consistent with the same core SNAP complex recognizing the PSEs of RNA polymerase II and III snRNA promoters, and provide an initial view of the architecture of the SNAP complex.