Base-pairing of messenger RNA to ribosomal RNA is a mechanism of translation initiation in prokaryotes. Although analogous base-pairing has been suggested to affect the translation of various eukaryotic mRNAs, direct evidence has been lacking. To test such base-pairing, we developed a yeast system that uses ribosomes containing a mouse-yeast hybrid 18S rRNA. Using this system, we demonstrate that a 9-nucleotide element found in the mouse Gtx homeodomain mRNA facilitates translation initiation by base-pairing to 18S rRNA. Various point mutations in the Gtx element and in either the hybrid or wild-type yeast 18S rRNAs confirmed the requirement for an intact complementary match. The presence of the Gtx element in various mRNAs suggests that this element affects the translation of groups of mRNAs. We discuss the possibility that other mRNA elements affect translation by base-pairing to different sites in the 18S rRNA.