Oligoribonucleotides and mRNA were used to define properties of the bovine mitoribosomal mRNA binding site. The RNA binding domain on the 28 S subunit spans approx. 80 nucleotides of the template, based on ribosome protection experiments, but the major interaction with the ribosome occurs over a 30 nucleotide stretch. The binding site for E. coli IF3 is conserved in bovine mitoribosomes, but mitochondrial factors appear essential for proper interaction of mRNA with mitoribosomes. The small subunit of bovine mitoribosomes contains a high-affinity binding site for guanyl nucleotides, further indication of specialized mechanisms for initiation complex formation and function of mammalian mitochondrial ribosomes.