The exon junction complex (EJC) is deposited on mRNAs by the process of pre-mRNA splicing and is a key effector of downstream mRNA metabolism. We previously demonstrated that human eIF4AIII, which is essential for nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD), constitutes at least part of the RNA-binding platform anchoring other EJC components to the spliced mRNA. To determine the regions of eIF4AIII that are functionally important for EJC formation, for binding to other EJC components, and for NMD, we now report results of an extensive mutational analysis of human eIF4AIII. Using GFP-, GST- or Flag-fusions of eIF4AIII versions containing site-specific mutations or truncations, we analyzed subcellular localizations, protein-protein interactions, and EJC formation in vivo and in vitro. We also tested whether mutant proteins could rescue NMD inhibition resulting from RNAi depletion of endogenous eIF4AIII. Motifs Ia and VI, which are conserved among the eIF4A family of RNA helicases (DEAD-box proteins), are crucial for EJC formation and NMD, as is one eIF4AIII-specific region. An additional eIF4AIII-specific motif forms part of the binding site for MLN51, another EJC core component. Mutations in the canonical Walker A and B motifs that eliminate RNA-dependent ATP hydrolysis by eIF4AIII in vitro are of no detectable consequence for EJC formation and NMD activation. Implications of these findings are discussed in the context of other recent results and a new structural model for human eIF4AIII based on the known crystal structure of Saccharomyces cerevisiae eIF4AI.