Transcription activator-like effectors (TALEs) are sequence-specific DNA binding proteins found in a range of plant pathogenic bacteria, where they play important roles in host-pathogen interactions. However, it has been unclear how TALEs, after they have been injected into the host cells, activate transcription of host genes required for infection success. Here, we show that the basal transcription factor IIA gamma subunit TFIIAγ5 from rice is a key component for infection by the TALE-carrying bacterium Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae, the causal agent for bacterial blight. Direct interaction of several TALEs with TFIIAγ5 is required for activation of disease susceptibility genes. Conversely, reduced expression of the TFIIAγ5 host gene limits the induction of susceptibility genes and thus decreases bacterial blight symptoms. Suppression or mutation of TFIIAγ5 can also reduce bacterial streak, another devastating disease of rice caused by TALE-carrying X. oryzae pv. oryzicola. These results have important implications for formulating a widely applicable strategy with which to improve resistance of plants to TALE-carrying pathogens.