Polycomb group proteins mediate heritable transcriptional silencing and function through multiprotein complexes that methylate and ubiquitinate histones. The 600-kDa E(Z)/ESC complex, also known as Polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2), specifically methylates histone H3 lysine 27 (H3 K27) through the intrinsic histone methyltransferase (HMTase) activity of the E(Z) SET domain. By itself, E(Z) exhibits no detectable HMTase activity and requires ESC for methylation of H3 K27. The molecular basis for this requirement is unknown. ESC binds directly, via its C-terminal WD repeats (beta-propeller domain), to E(Z). Here, we show that the N-terminal region of ESC that precedes its beta-propeller domain interacts directly with histone H3, thereby physically linking E(Z) to its substrate. We show that when expressed in stable S2 cell lines, an N-terminally truncated ESC (FLAG-ESC61-425), like full-length ESC, is incorporated into complexes with E(Z) and binds to a Ubx Polycomb response element in a chromatin immunoprecipitation assay. However, incorporation of this N-terminally truncated ESC into E(Z) complexes prevents trimethylation of histone H3 by E(Z). We also show that a closely related Drosophila melanogaster paralog of ESC, ESC-like (ESCL), and the mammalian homolog of ESC, EED, also interact with histone H3 via their N termini, indicating that the interaction of ESC with histone H3 is evolutionarily conserved, reflecting its functional importance. Our data suggest that one of the roles of ESC (and ESCL and EED) in PRC2 complexes is to enable E(Z) to utilize histone H3 as a substrate by physically linking enzyme and substrate.