Drosophila SAYP, a homologue of human PHF10/BAF45a, is a metazoan coactivator associated with Brahma and essential for its recruitment on the promoter. The role of SAYP in DHR3 activator-driven transcription of the ftz-f1 gene, a member of the ecdysone cascade was studied. In the repressed state of ftz-f1 in the presence of DHR3, the Pol II complex is pre-recruited on the promoter; Pol II starts transcription but is paused 1.5 kb downstream of the promoter, with SAYP and Brahma forming a ‘nucleosomal barrier’ (a region of high nucleosome density) ahead of paused Pol II. SAYP depletion leads to the removal of Brahma, thereby eliminating the nucleosomal barrier. During active transcription, Pol II pausing at the same point correlates with Pol II CTD Ser2 phosphorylation. SAYP is essential for Ser2 phosphorylation and transcription elongation. Thus, SAYP as part of the Brahma complex participates in both ‘repressive’ and ‘transient’ Pol II pausing.