Eukaryotic initiation factor 3 (eIF3) is a 12-subunit protein complex that plays a central role in binding of initiator methionyl-tRNA and mRNA to the 40 S ribosomal subunit to form the 40 S initiation complex. The molecular mechanisms by which eIF3 exerts these functions are poorly understood. To learn more about the structure and function of eIF3 we have expressed and purified individual human eIF3 subunits or complexes of eIF3 subunits using baculovirus-infected Sf9 cells. The results indicate that the subunits of human eIF3 that have homologs in Saccharomyces cerevisiae form subcomplexes that reflect the subunit interactions seen in the yeast eIF3 core complex. In addition, we have used an in vitro 40 S ribosomal subunit binding assay to investigate subunit requirements for efficient association of the eIF3 subcomplexes to the 40 S ribosomal subunit. eIF3j alone binds to the 40 S ribosomal subunit, and its presence is required for stable 40 S binding of an eIF3bgi subcomplex. Furthermore, purified eIF3 lacking eIF3j binds 40 S ribosomal subunits weakly, but binds tightly when eIF3j is added. Cleavage of a 16-residue C-terminal peptide from eIF3j by caspase-3 significantly reduces the affinity of eIF3j for the 40 S ribosomal subunit, and the cleaved form provides substantially less stabilization of purified eIF3-40S complexes. These results indicate that eIF3j, and especially its C terminus, play an important role in the recruitment of eIF3 to the 40 S ribosomal subunit.