The mechanism by which the scanning ribosome recognizes the first AUG codon nearest the 5' end of eukaryotic messenger RNA has not been established. To investigate this an anticodon change (3'-UCC-5') was introduced into one of the four methionine initiator (tRNAi(met) genes of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The ability of the mutant transfer RNA to restore growth properties to his4 initiator codon mutant yeast strains in the absence of histidine was then assayed. Only the complementary codon, AGG, at the his4 initiator region supported His+ growth. The mutant transfer RNA also directed the ribosome to initiate at an AGG placed in the upstream region of the his4 message. Initiation at this upstream AGG precluded initiation at a downstream AGG in accordance with the "scanning" model. Therefore, an anticodon: codon interaction between tRNAi(met) as part of the scanning ribosome and the first AUG must function in directing the ribosome to the eukaryotic initiator region.