Little is known about the conservation of determinants for the identities of tRNAs between organisms. We showed previously that Escherichia coli tyrosine tRNA synthetase can charge the Saccharomyces cerevisiae mitochondrial tyrosine tRNA in vivo, even though there are substantial sequence differences between the yeast mitochondrial and bacterial tRNAs. The S. cerevisiae cytoplasmic tyrosine tRNA differs in sequence from both its yeast mitochondrial and E. coli counterparts. To test whether the yeast cytoplasmic tyrosyl-tRNA synthetase recognizes the E. coli tRNA, we expressed various amounts of an E. coli tyrosine tRNA amber suppressor in S. cerevisiae. The bacterial tRNA did not suppress any of three yeast amber alleles, suggesting that the yeast enzymes retain high specificity in vivo for their homologous tRNAs. Moreover, the nucleotides in the sequence of the E. coli suppressor that are not shared with the yeast cytoplasmic tyrosine tRNA do not create determinants which are efficiently recognized by other yeast charging enzymes. Therefore, at least some of the determinants that influence in vivo recognition of the tyrosine tRNA are specific to the cell compartment and organism. In contrast, expression of the cognate bacterial tyrosyl-tRNA synthetase together with the bacterial suppressor tRNA led to suppression of all three amber alleles. The bacterial enzyme recognized its substrate in vivo, even when the amount of bacterial tRNA was less than about 0.05% of that of the total cytoplasmic tRNA.