The eukaryotic ribosomal 5S RNA-protein complex (5S rRNP) is formed by a co-translational event that requires 5S rRNA binding to the nascent peptide chain of eukaryotic ribosomal protein L5. Binding between 5S rRNA and the nascent chain is specific: neither the 5S rRNA nor the nascent chain of L5 protein can be substituted by other RNAs or other ribosomal proteins. The region responsible for binding 5S rRNA is located at positions 35-50 with amino acid sequence RLVIQDIKNKYNTPKYRM. Eukaryotic 5S rRNA binds a nascent chain having this sequence, but such binding is not substantive enough to form a 5S-associated RNP complex, suggesting that 5S rRNA binding to the nascent chain is amino acid sequence dependent and that formation of the 5S rRNP complex is L5 protein specific. Microinjection of 5S rRNP complex into the cytoplasm of Xenopus oocytes results in both an increase in the initial rate and also in the extent of net nuclear import of L5. This suggests that the 5S rRNP complex enhances nuclear transport of L5. We propose that 5S rRNA plays a chaperone-like role in folding of the nascent chain of L5 and directs L5 into a 5S rRNP complex for nuclear entry.