Genetic analysis has revealed a set of nuclear-encoded factors that regulate chloroplast mRNA translation by interacting with the 5' leaders of chloroplastic mRNAs. We have identified and isolated proteins that bind specifically to the 5' leader of the chloroplastic psbA mRNA, encoding the photosystem II reaction center protein D1. Binding of these proteins protects a 36 base RNA fragment containing a stem-loop located upstream of the ribosome binding site. Binding of these proteins to the psbA mRNA correlates with the level of translation of psbA mRNA observed in light- and dark-grown wild type cells and in a mutant that lacks D1 synthesis in the dark. The accumulation of at least one of these psbA mRNA-binding proteins is dependent upon chloroplast development, while its mRNA-binding activity appears to be light modulated in developed chloroplasts. These nuclear encoded proteins are prime candidates for regulators of chloroplast protein synthesis and may play an important role in coordinating nuclear-chloroplast gene expression as well as provide a mechanism for regulating chloroplast gene expression during development in higher plants.