The efficiency of translation initiation at triplets differing at one residue from AUG was tested by transient expression in protoplasts from two different plant species. All possible alternative codons were tested. Some triplets showed significant CAT activity, with CUG (30% of the AUG activity) being most active. Most others had between 5 and 15% of the activity obtained from AUG, whereas UUG and AUC yielded about 2% and the two composed only of purines, AAG and AGG, had no significant activity. Translation initiation from AUC, especially, responded to leader sequences outside the immediate context which did not affect translation initiation from AUG.