Nucleoside modifications are important to the structure of all tRNAs and are critical to the function of some tRNA species. The transcript of human tRNA(Lys3)(UUU) with a UUU anticodon, and the corresponding anticodon stem and loop domain (ASL(Lys3)(UUU)), are unable to bind to poly-A programmed ribosomes. To determine if specific anticodon domain modified nucleosides of tRNA(Lys) species would restore ribosomal binding and also affect thermal stability, we chemically synthesized ASL(Lys) heptadecamers and site-specifically incorporated the anticodon domain modified nucleosides pseudouridine (Psi(39)), 5-methylaminomethyluridine (mnm(5)U(34)) and N6-threonylcarbamoyl-adenosine (t(6)A(37)). Incorporation of t(6)A(37) and mnm(5)U(34) contributed structure to the anticodon loop, apparent by increases in DeltaS, and significantly enhanced the ability of ASL(Lys3)(UUU) to bind poly-A programmed ribosomes. Neither ASL(Lys3)(UUU)-t(6)A(37) nor ASL(Lys3)(UUU)-mnm(5)U(34) bound AAG programmed ribosomes. Only the presence of both t(6)A(37) and mnm(5)U(34) enabled ASL(Lys3)(UUU) to bind AAG programmed ribosomes, as well as increased its affinity for poly-A programmed ribosomes to the level of native Escherichia coli tRNA(Lys). The completely unmodified anticodon stem and loop of human tRNA(Lys1,2)(CUU) with a wobble position-34 C bound AAG, but did not wobble to AAA, even when the ASL was modified with t(6)A(37). The data suggest that tRNA(Lys)(UUU) species require anticodon domain modifications in the loop to impart an ordered structure to the anticodon for ribosomal binding to AAA and require a combination of modified nucleosides to bind AAG.