Consensus tRNA gene promoter elements, A and B boxes, were introduced into the coding sequence of a Xenopus U6 gene. Combinations in which A and B boxes were coupled to wild-type or mutant U6 promoters were made. In this way information about both the functions of individual promoter elements and functional relationships between different classes of RNA polymerase III promoter element were obtained. Mutants in which the U6 PSE was non-functional were rescued by the presence of a B box, indicating a degree of functional relationship between these two elements. Moreover, the B box acted to increase the transcriptional activity and competitive strength of the wild-type U6 promoter. In contrast, no evidence was obtained to suggest that a tRNA A box can interact productively with U6 promoter elements in the absence of a B box. Data obtained suggest that the U6 PSE functions as an 'adaptor', being necessary to enable the basal U6 promoter to respond to upstream enhancement. Certain combinations of U6 and tRNA promoter elements are shown to be mutually antagonistic by a mechanism which is likely to involve blockage of transcription initiation. In summary, the U6 and tRNA promoters are shown to consist of functionally related, but distinct, promoter elements whose interactions shed new light on their normal roles in transcription.