The Drosophila male-specific lethal (MSL) dosage compensation complex increases transcript levels on the single male X chromosome to equal the transcript levels in XX females. However, it is not known how the MSL complex is linked to its DNA recognition elements, the critical first step in dosage compensation. Here, we demonstrate that a previously uncharacterized zinc finger protein, CLAMP (chromatin-linked adaptor for MSL proteins), functions as the first link between the MSL complex and the X chromosome. CLAMP directly binds to the MSL complex DNA recognition elements and is required for the recruitment of the MSL complex. The discovery of CLAMP identifies a key factor required for the chromosome-specific targeting of dosage compensation, providing new insights into how subnuclear domains of coordinate gene regulation are formed within metazoan genomes.