The histone chaperone nucleosome assembly protein, hNAP-1, is a host cofactor for the activity of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) transactivator Tat. The interaction between these two proteins has been shown to be important for Tat-mediated transcriptional activation and for efficient viral infection. Visualization of HIV-1 transcription and fluorescence resonance energy transfer experiments performed in this work demonstrate that hNAP-1 is not recruited to the site of Tat activity but the two proteins interact at the nuclear rim. These data are consistent with a mechanism that requireshNAP-1 for the transport of Tat within the nucleus rather than for the remodeling of nucleosomes on the provirus. Protein-protein docking and molecular modeling of the complex suggest that this interaction occurs between the basic domain of Tat and the histone-binding domain. The combination of theoretical and whole cell studies provided new insights into the functional significance of the Tat:hNAP-1 recognition.