The expression of some Saccharomyces cerevisiae genes is induced as cells enter stationary phase. Their mRNAs are translated during a period in the growth cycle when the translational apparatus is relatively inert, thereby raising the possibility that these mRNAs compete effectively for a limiting pool of translation factors. To test this idea, the translation of mRNAs carrying different 5'-leaders was compared during exponential growth and after entry into stationary phase upon glucose starvation. Closely related sets of lacZ mRNAs, carrying 5'-leaders from the PYK1, PGK1, RpL3, Rp29, HSP12, HSP26 or THI4 mRNAs, were studied. These mRNAs displayed differing translational efficiencies during exponential growth, but their relative translatabilities were not significantly affected by entry into stationary phase, indicating that they compete just as effectively under these conditions. Polysome analysis revealed that the wild-type PYK1, ACT1 and HSP26 mRNAs are all translated efficiently during stationary phase, when the translational apparatus is relatively inert. Also, significant levels of the translation initiation factors eIF-2alpha, eIF-4E and eIF-4A were maintained during the growth cycle. These data are consistent with the idea that, while translational activity decreases dramatically during entry into stationary phase, yeast cells maintain excess translational capacity under these conditions.