The product of the c-myc proto-oncogene is a nuclear phosphoprotein whose normal cellular function has not yet been defined. c-Myc has a number of biochemical properties, however, that suggest that it may function as a potential regulator of gene transcription. Specifically, it is a nuclear DNA-binding protein with a short half-life, a high proline content, segments that are rich in glutamine and acidic residues, and a carboxyl-terminal oligomerization domain containing the leucine zipper and helix-loop-helix motifs that serve as oligomerization domains in known regulators of transcription, such as C/EBP, Jun, Fos, GCN4, MyoD, E12, and E47. In an effort to establish that c-Myc might regulate transcription in vivo, we sought to determine whether regions of the c-Myc protein could activate transcription in an in vitro system. We report here that fusion proteins in which segments of human c-Myc are linked to the DNA-binding domain of the yeast transcriptional activator GAL4 can activate transcription from a reporter gene linked to GAL4-binding sites. Three independent activation regions are located between amino acids 1 and 143, a region that has been shown to be required for neoplastic transformation of primary rat embryo cells in cooperation with a mutated ras gene. These results demonstrate that domains of the c-Myc protein can function to regulate transcription in a model system and suggest that alterations of Myc transcriptional regulatory function may lead to neoplastic transformation.