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The RNA polymerase II and III human small nuclear RNA promoters have a common basal element, the proximal sequence element, which binds the TATA box-binding protein-containing complex SNAPc. They also contain an enhancer characterized by a highly conserved octamer sequence, which constitutes a binding site for the broadly expressed POU domain transcription factor Oct-1. The POU domain is a bipartite DNA-binding domain consisting of a POU-homeo (POUH) domain and a POU-specific (POUs) domain joined by a flexible linker. Here, we show that the Oct-1 POU domain but not the related Pit-1 POU domain can facilitate the binding of SNAPc to the proximal sequence element, and activate transcription. The effect is probably mediated by protein-protein contacts, and 1 of 30 amino acid differences between the Oct-1 and Pit-1 POUs domains is the key determinant for the differential interaction with SNAPc and the ability to activate transcription. These results show that a function that is the hallmark of activation domains, namely, recruitment of a basal transcription complex resulting in activation of transcription, can be performed by a DNA-binding domain. In this case, subtle changes between activator DNA-binding domains, as subtle as a single amino acid difference, can profoundly affect interaction with the basal transcription machinery.