The DNA polymerases (gp43s) of the two related phages T4 and RB69 are DNA-binding proteins that also function as mRNA-binding autogenous translational repressors. As repressors, T4 gp43 is narrowly specific to its own mRNA whereas RB69 gp43 is equally effective against mRNA for either protein. We used in vitro RNase-sensitivity and RNA footprinting assays to identify features of the non-identical T4 and RB69 mRNA targets (translational operators) that allow for their identical binding affinities and biological responses to RB69 gp43. We observed that T4 gp43 and RB69 gp43 produce identical footprints on RNA substrates bearing the T4-derived operator, suggesting that the two gp43s make identical contacts with this operator. In contrast, the footprint produced by RB69 gp43 on its autogenous RNA target was shorter than its footprint on operator RNA from T4. As expected, we also observed only weak protection of RB69-derived operator RNA from RNase by T4 gp43; however, photocross-linking studies suggested that T4 gp43 recognizes structural features of the RB69-derived operator that are not detected by RNase- sensitivity assays. The results suggest that RB69 gp43 and T4 gp43 differ in their abilities to use RNA-sequence-independent interactions to configure potential RNA targets for translational repression.