The discovery of disrupted rps19 genes in Arabidopsis mitochondria prompted speculation about the transfer to the nuclear compartment. We here describe the functional gene transfer of rps19 into the nucleus of Arabidopsis. Molecular cloning and sequence analysis of rps19 show that the nuclear gene encodes a long N-terminal extension. Import studies of the precursor protein indicate that only a small part of this extension is cleaved off during import. The larger part of the extension, which shows high similarity to conserved RNA-binding domains of the RNP-CS type, became part of the S19 protein. In the Escherichia coli ribosome S19 forms an RNA-binding complex as heterodimer with S13. By using immuno-analysis and import studies we show that a eubacterial-like S13 protein is absent from Arabidopsis mitochondria, and is not substituted by either a chloroplastic or a cytosolic homologue of this ribosomal protein. We therefore propose that either a highly diverged or missing RPS13 has been functionally replaced by an RNP domain that most likely derived from a glycine-rich RNA-binding protein. These results represent the first case of a functional replacement of a ribosomal protein by a common RNA-binding domain and offer a new view on the flexibility of biological systems in using well-adapted functional domains for different jobs.