The YgjD/Kae1 family (COG0533) has been on the top-10 list of universally conserved proteins of unknown function for over 5 years. It has been linked to DNA maintenance in bacteria and mitochondria and transcription regulation and telomere homeostasis in eukaryotes, but its actual function has never been found. Based on a comparative genomic and structural analysis, we predicted this family was involved in the biosynthesis of N(6)-threonylcarbamoyl adenosine, a universal modification found at position 37 of tRNAs decoding ANN codons. This was confirmed as a yeast mutant lacking Kae1 is devoid of t(6)A. t(6)A(-) strains were also used to reveal that t(6)A has a critical role in initiation codon restriction to AUG and in restricting frameshifting at tandem ANN codons. We also showed that YaeZ, a YgjD paralog, is required for YgjD function in vivo in bacteria. This work lays the foundation for understanding the pleiotropic role of this universal protein family.