CPC1 is the transcriptional activator of amino acid biosynthetic genes of Neurospora crassa. CPC1 function in vivo was abolished upon deletion of segments of cpc-1 corresponding to the presumed transcription activation domain, the DNA-binding and dimerization domains, or a 52-residue connector segment of CPC1. A truncated CPC1 polypeptide containing only the carboxy-terminal 57-residue segment of CPC1 was sufficient to form homodimers that bound DNA. However, deletion of the segment of cpc-1 corresponding to the connector segment in the full-length CPC1 polypeptide abolished DNA binding. Removal of a segment of cpc-1 corresponding to the GIn-rich region of CPC1 reduced in vivo function only slightly. The homologous transcription activator of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, GCN4, did not substitute for CPC1 in N. crassa. Chimeric CPC1-GCN4 polypeptides that contained the GCN4 transcriptional activation domain or the domain of GCN4 that corresponds to the essential 52-residue connector segment of CPC1, functioned with reduced efficiency. However, a chimeric polypeptide containing the GCN4 DNA-binding and dimerization domains in place of those of CPC1 functioned essentially as well as wild-type CPC1. The basic and dimerization domains of CPC1 were characterized by introducing deletions or site-directed amino acid replacements. The basic region was required for DNA binding but not for dimerization. CPC1 has a short dimerization domain containing heptad residues Leu-1, Leu-2, Trp-3, and His-4. When Val was substituted for Leu-1 or Leu-2, CPC1 was fully active, but when Val replaced Trp-3, dimerization and DNA binding were prevented. DNA band shift analyses with CPC1 heterodimers demonstrated that CPC1 does not require aligned heptad leucine residues for dimerization. Replacement of two charged residues located between Leu-1 and Leu-2 of CPC1 abolished dimerization and DNA binding.