We showed earlier that a single G3.U70 base pair within the amino acid acceptor helix is a major determinant of the identity of tRNA(Ala). In addition, we demonstrated that an RNA hairpin minihelix that recreates the 12 base pair acceptor-T psi C stem of tRNA(Ala) is also aminoacylated in a G3.U70-dependent manner. Determinants for efficient aminoacylation at pH 7.5 have been further investigated with minihelix substrates that have sequence variations at 3.70 and other locations. Although a U,U mismatch and other 3.70 nucleotide alternatives to G.U were recently proposed by others as also important for alanine acceptance, neither that mismatch nor any of four other 3.70 nucleotide combinations confer aminoacylation in vitro with alanine, even with substrate levels of enzyme. In contrast, permutations of the so-called discriminator nucleotide N73 (at position 73) strongly modulate, but do not block, aminoacylation of those substrates that encode G3.U70. In particular, the efficiency of G3.U70-dependent aminoacylation with alanine is strongly enhanced by having the wild-type A73. The effect of N73 alone can explain most of the difference in aminoacylation efficiency of a G3.U70-containing tRNA and a minihelix substrate whose sequences vary significantly from their tRNA(Ala) counterparts. Comparison with earlier work suggests that the substantial modulating effect of N73 is partly or completely obscured when N73 tRNA variants are expressed as amber suppressors in vivo.