Cellular eukaryotic mRNAs (except organellar) contain at the 5' terminus the structure m7(5')Gppp(5')N (where N is any nucleotide), termed cap. Cap recognition by eukaryotic initiation factor eIF-4F plays an important role in regulating the overall rate of translation. eIF-4F is believed to mediate the melting of mRNA 5' end secondary structure and facilitate 43S ribosome binding to capped mRNAs. eIF-4E, the cap-binding subunit of eIF-4F, plays an important role in cell growth; its overexpression results in malignant transformation of rodent cells, and its phosphorylation is implicated in signal transduction pathways of mitogens and growth factors. The molecular mechanism by which eIF-4E transforms cells is not known. Here, we report that overexpression of eIF-4E facilitates the translation of mRNAs containing excessive secondary structure in their 5' non-coding region. This effect may represent one mechanism by which eIF-4E regulates cell growth and transforms cells in culture.