Oligonucleotides that recapitulate the acceptor stems of tRNAs are substrates for aminoacylation by many tRNA synthetases in vitro, even though these substrates are missing the anticodon trinucleotides of the genetic code. In the case of tRNAAla a single acceptor stem G.U base pair at position 3.70 is essential, based on experiments where the wobble pair has been replaced by alternatives such as I.U, G.C, and A.U, among others. These experiments led to the conclusion that the minor-groove free 2-amino group (of guanosine) of the G.U wobble pair is essential for charging. Moreover, alanine-inserting tRNAs (amber suppressors) that replace G. U with mismatches such as G.A and C.A are partially active in vivo and can support growth of an Escherichia coli tRNAAla knockout strain, leading to the hypothesis that a helix irregularity and nucleotide functionalities are important for recognition. Herein we investigate the charging in vitro of oligonucleotide and full-length tRNA substrates that contain mismatches at the position of the G.U pair. Although most of these substrates have undetectable activity, G.A and C.A variants retain some activity, which is, nevertheless, reduced by at least 100-fold. Thus, the in vivo assays are much less sensitive to large changes in aminoacylation kinetic efficiency of 3.70 variants than is the in vitro assay system. Although these functional data do not clarify all of the details, it is now clear that specific atomic groups are substantially more important in determining kinetic efficiency than is a helical distortion. By implication, the activity of mutant tRNAs measured in the in vivo assays appears to be more dependent on factors other than aminoacylation kinetic efficiency.