Pseudouridine at position 39 (Psi(39)) of tRNA's anticodon stem and loop domain (ASL) is highly conserved. To determine the physicochemical contributions of Psi(39)to the ASL and to relate these properties to tRNA function in translation, we synthesized the unmodified yeast tRNA(Phe)ASL and ASLs with various derivatives of U(39)and Psi(39). Psi(39)increased the thermal stability of the ASL (Delta T (m)= 1.3 +/- 0.5 degrees C), but did not significantly affect ribosomal binding ( K (d)= 229 +/- 29 nM) compared to that of the unmodified ASL (K (d)= 197 +/- 58 nM). The ASL-Psi(39)P-site fingerprint on the 30S ribosomal subunit was similar to that of the unmodified ASL. The stability, ribosome binding and fingerprint of the ASL with m(1)Psi(39)were comparable to that of the ASL with Psi(39). Thus, the contribution of Psi(39)to ASL stability is not related to N1-H hydrogen bonding, but probably is due to the nucleoside's ability to improve base stacking compared to U. In contrast, substitutions of m(3)Psi(39), the isosteric m(3)U(39)and m(1)m(3)Psi(39)destabilized the ASL by disrupting the A(31)-U(39)base pair in the stem, as confirmed by NMR. N3-methylations of both U and Psi dramatically decreased ribosomal binding ( K (d)= 1060 +/- 189 to 1283 +/- 258 nM). Thus, canonical base pairing of Psi(39)to A(31)through N3-H is important to structure, stability and ribosome binding, whereas the increased stability and the N1-proton afforded by modification of U(39)to Psi(39)may have biological roles other than tRNA's binding to the ribosomal P-site.