Several class I and class II human tRNA synthetases are clearly related to their bacterial counterparts. We report here the cloning, cDNA sequence, deduced primary structure, and expression in bacteria of a class II human glycyl-tRNA synthetase. While the human sequence aligns well with a Bombyx mori and a Saccharomyces cerevisiae sequence for glycyl-tRNA synthetase, particularly in the region of the class II-defining sequence motifs, it diverges widely from that of the Escherichia coli enzyme. The divergence is so great that from the sequences alone we cannot conclude that the human and E. coli proteins are descended from homologous genes. Moreover, even though the human and E. coli class II alanyl-tRNA synthetases cross-acylate their respective tRNAs, aminoacylations by the recombinant human and E. coli glycyl-tRNA synthetases are restricted to their homologous tRNAs. The species-specific aminoacylations correlate with a nucleotide sequence difference at a location in the acceptor stem that is known to be critical for aminoacylations by the E. coli enzyme. Thus, glycyl-tRNA synthetase may have followed a path of historical development different in at least some respects from that of several other tRNA synthetases.