We have investigated why the recycling of eIF-2.GDP to eIF-2.GTP, mediated by the guanine nucleotide exchange factor eIF-2B, is rapid in rabbit reticulocyte lysate, reconstituted for optimal protein synthesis, but slow in an isolated reaction with purified eIF-2B. We have found that purified eIF-2B dissociates eIF-2.[3H]GDP as efficiently in the presence of GTP as it does in the presence of GDP provided Met-tRNA(fMet) is added. tRNA(fMet) is ineffective, and there is no Met-tRNA(fMet) requirement for exchange with GDP. Exchange of eIF-2 bound GDP for GTP is completely dependent upon Met-tRNA(fMet) in the presence of ATP, suggesting that under physiological conditions efficient recycling of eIF-2.GDP to eIF-2.GTP requires conversion of the latter, a relatively unstable complex, to a more stable Met-tRNA(fMet).eIF-2.GTP complex.