tRNA(2Gln) made in vitro by transcription with T7 RNA polymerase does not contain the pseudouridines at positions 38, 39, and 55, the 4-thiouridine at position 8, or any of the methylated bases found in the tRNA(2Gln) made in vivo. Cocrystals of unmodified tRNA(2Gln) complexed with glutaminyl-tRNA synthetase from Escherichia coli are isomorphous with those of the complex with modified tRNA(2Gln). A difference electron density map between the complexes with modified and unmodified tRNAs calculated at 2.5-A resolution shows no differences in the protein or tRNA structures, except for some very small shifts in atoms contacting the thiol at the 4 position of uridine 8 that are required to accommodate the smaller oxygen in the unmodified tRNA. Perhaps the most functionally significant change in the unmodified tRNA is the absence of the specifically bound water molecules that are observed to cross-link the N5 of the pseudo-uridines to their 5' phosphate. This suggests a possible role for pseudouridinylation in stabilization of the tRNA through water-mediated linking of these modified bases to the backbone, which is consistent with the lower thermal stability of the unmodified tRNA. An identical water-bridging structure is possible at four of the five other psuedo-uridines in known tRNA structures.