Phosphorylation of serine 51 residue on the alpha-subunit of eukaryotic initiation factor 2 (eIF2alpha) inhibits the guanine nucleotide exchange (GNE) activity of eIF2B, presumably, by forming a tight complex with eIF2B. Inhibition of the GNE activity of eIF2B leads to impairment in eIF2 recycling and protein synthesis. We have partially purified the wild-type (wt) and mutants of eIF2alpha in which the serine 51 residue was replaced with alanine (51A mutant) or aspartic acid (51D mutant) in the baculovirus system. Analysis of these mutants has provided novel insight into the role of 51 serine in the interaction between eIF2 and eIF2B. Neither mutant was phosphorylated in vitro. Both mutants decreased eIF2alpha phosphorylation occurring in hemin and poly(IC)-treated reticulocyte lysates due to the activation of double-stranded RNA-dependent protein kinase (PKR). However, addition of 51D, but not 51A mutant eIF2alpha protein promoted inhibition of the GNE activity of eIF2B in hemin-supplemented rabbit reticulocyte lysates in which relatively little or no endogenous eIF2alpha phosphorylation occurred. The 51D mutant enhanced the inhibition in GNE activity of eIF2B that occurred in hemin and poly(IC)-treated reticulocyte lysates where PKR is active. Our results show that the increased interaction between eIF2 and eIF2B protein, occurring in reticulocyte lysates due to increased eIF2alpha phosphorylation, is decreased significantly by the addition of mutant 51A protein but not 51D. Consistent with the idea that mutant 51D protein behaves like a phosphorylated eIF2alpha, addition of this partially purified recombinant subunit, but not 51A or wt eIF2alpha, increases the interaction between eIF2 and 2B proteins in actively translating hemin-supplemented lysates. These findings support the idea that phosphorylation of the serine 51 residue in eIF2alpha promotes complex formation between eIF2alpha(P) and eIF2B and thereby inhibits the GNE activity of eIF2B.