The TCT motif (polypyrimidine initiator) encompasses the transcription start site of nearly all ribosomal protein genes in Drosophila and mammals. The TCT motif is required for transcription of ribosomal protein gene promoters. The TCT element resembles the Inr (initiator), but is not recognized by TFIID and cannot function in lieu of an Inr. However, a single T-to-A substitution converts the TCT element into a functionally active Inr. Thus, the TCT motif is a novel transcriptional element that is distinct from the Inr. These findings reveal a specialized TCT-based transcription system that is directed toward the synthesis of ribosomal proteins.