consensus binding sites for the cellular transcription factor Spl. Since the use of heterologous promoters may provide further insight into Tat-mediated transactivation, we have analyzed the transactivation of the thymidine kinase promoter of herpes simplex virus by Tat and by the acidic transcriptional transactivator VP16. The effects of mutations of defined upstream promoter elements show that Tat transactivation is dependent on Spl binding sites in a site-specific manner. In contrast, transactivation by the acidic transactivator VP16 is completely independent of any of the defined promoter elements upstream of the TATA box. These results suggest that Tat and the classically defined modular acidic transcriptional activators have different modes of transactivation. In addition, the substitution of the HIV-1 TATA box for the thymidine kinase TATA box substantially increases Tat transactivation, indicating that Tat transactivation may also ultimately involve TATA box-associated cellular transcription factors.