Several translation initiation factors in mammals and yeast are regulated by phosphorylation. The phosphorylation state of these factors is subject to alteration during development, environmental stress (heat shock, starvation, or heme deprivation), or viral infection. The phosphorylation state and the effect of changes in phosphorylation of the translation initiation factors of higher plants have not been previously investigated. We have determined the isoelectric states for the wheat translation initiation factors eIF-4A, eIF-4B, eIF-4F, eIF-iso4F, and eIF-2 and the poly(A)-binding protein in the seed, during germination, and following heat shock of wheat seedlings using two-dimensional gel electrophoresis and Western analysis. We found that the developmentally induced changes in isoelectric state observed during germination or the stress-induced changes were consistent with changes in phosphorylation. Treatment of the phosphorylated forms of the factors with phosphatases confirmed that the nature of the modification was due to phosphorylation. The isoelectric states of eIF-4B, eIF-4F (eIF-4E, p26), eIF-iso4F (eIF-iso4E, p28), and eIF-2alpha (p42) were altered during germination, suggesting that phosphorylation of these factors is developmentally regulated and correlates with the resumption of protein synthesis that occurs during germination. The phosphorylation of eIF-2beta (p38) or poly(A)-binding protein did not change either during germination or following a thermal stress. Only the phosphorylation state of two factors, eIF-4A and eIF-4B, changed following a heat shock, suggesting that plants may differ significantly from animals in the way in which their translational machinery is modified in response to a thermal stress.