A cDNA encoding a DNA-binding protein of the DOF class of transcription factors was isolated from a barley endosperm library. The deduced amino acid sequence for the corresponding protein is 94% identical through the DOF domain to the prolamin-box (P-box) binding factor PBF from maize. The gene encoding the barley PBF (BPBF) maps to chromosome 7H, and its expression is restricted to the endosperm where it precedes that of the hordein genes. The BPBF expressed in bacteria as a GST-fusion binds a P-box 5′-TGTAAAG-3′ containing oligonucleotide derived from the promoter region of an Hor2 gene. Binding was prevented when the P-box motif was mutated to 5′-TGTAgAc-3′. A P-box binding activity, present in barley and wheat endosperm nuclei, interacted similarly to BPBF with this synthetic oligonucleotide, and the binding was abolished by 1,10-phenanthroline. Transient expression experiments in developing barley endosperms demonstrate that BPBF transactivates transcription from the P-box element of a native Hor2 promoter and that direct binding of BPBF to its target site is essential for transactivation since mutations in the DOF DNA-binding domain or in the P-box motif of this promoter abolished both binding and transactivation. Evidence was also obtained for the presence in wheat of a Pbf homologue having similar DNA-binding properties to that of BPBF. These results strongly implicate this endosperm-specific DOF protein from barley as an important activator of hordein gene expression and suggest the evolutionary conservation of the Pbf gene function among small grain cereals.