Chromatin assembly factor 1 contains three subunits, p150, p60, and p48. It is essential for coupling nucleosome assembly to newly synthesized DNA. Whether chromatin assembly factor 1 subunits have functions beyond escorting histones, which depends on the complex formation of p150 and p60, has been an issue of great interest. This study reveals a novel role of p150, but not p60, in gene-specific transcriptional activation. We found that p150 transcriptionally activated an essential viral promoter, the major immediate early promoter (MIEP) of the human cytomegalovirus, independently of p60. Knocking down p150 decreased the MIEP function in both transfected and virally infected cells. The chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis and the in vitro protein-DNA binding assay demonstrated that p150 used its KER domain to associate with the MIEP from -593 to -574 bp. The N-terminal 244 residues were also found essential for p150-mediated MIEP activation, likely through recruiting the acetyltransferase p300 to acetylate local histones. Domain swapping experiments further showed that the KER and theNterminus of p150 acted as an independent DNA binding and transcriptional activation domain, respectively. Because p60 did not seem involved in the reaction, together these results indicate for the first time that p150 directly activates transcription, independently of its histone deposition function. © 2009 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.