The formation of the RNA polymerase II (Pol II) initiation complex was analyzed using site-specific protein-DNA photo-cross-linking. We show that the RAP74 subunit of transcription factor (TF) IIF, through its RAP30-binding domain and an adjacent region necessary for the formation of homomeric interactions in vitro, dramatically alters the distribution of RAP30, TFIIE, and Pol II along promoter DNA between positions -40 and +26. This isomerization of the complex, which requires both TFIIF and TFIIE, is accompanied by tight wrapping of the promoter DNA for almost a full turn around Pol II. Addition of TFIIH enhances photo-cross-linking of Pol II to a number of promoter positions, suggesting that TFIIH tightens the DNA wrap around the enzyme. We present a general model to describe transcription initiation.