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In bacteria, the activation of gene transcription at many promoters is simple and only involves a single activator. The cyclic adenosine 3',5'-monophosphate receptor protein (CAP), a classic activator, is able to activate transcription independently through two different mechanisms. Understanding the class I mechanism requires an intact transcription activation complex (TAC) structure at a high resolution. Here we report a high-resolution cryo-electron microscopy structure of an intact Escherichia coli class I TAC containing a CAP dimer, a σ(70)-RNA polymerase (RNAP) holoenzyme, a complete class I CAP-dependent promoter DNA, and a de novo synthesized RNA oligonucleotide. The structure shows how CAP wraps the upstream DNA and how the interactions recruit RNAP. Our study provides a structural basis for understanding how activators activate transcription through the class I recruitment mechanism.