Translation initiation factor 2 (eIF-2) in eukaryotic organisms is composed of three non-identical subunits, alpha, beta and gamma. In a previous report, we identified GCD11 as an essential gene encoding the gamma subunit of eIF-2 in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The predicted amino acid sequence of yeast eIF-2 gamma displays remarkable similarity to bacterial elongation factor Tu, including the presence of sequence elements conserved in all known guanine nucleotide binding proteins. We have identified the molecular defects present in seven unique alleles of GCD11 characterized by a partial loss of function. Three of these mutations result in amino acid substitutions within the putative GTP binding domain of eIF-2 gamma. We show that the gcd11 mutations specifically alter regulation of GCN4 expression at the translational level, without altering the scanning mechanism for protein synthesis initiation. Six of the mutant alleles presumably alter the function of eIF-2 gamma, rather than its abundance. A single allele, gcd11-R510H, suppresses a mutant his4 allele that lacks a functional AUG start codon. The latter result indicates that the gamma subunit of eIF-2 participates in recognition of the start site for protein synthesis, a role previously demonstrated in yeast for eIF-2 alpha and eIF-2 beta.