Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases establish the rules of the genetic code by joining amino acids to tRNAs that bear the anticodon triplets corresponding to the attached amino acids. The enzymes are thought to be among the earliest proteins to appear, in the transition from a putative RNA world to the theater of proteins. Over their long evolution, the enzymes have acquired additional functions that typically require specialized insertions or domain fusions. Recently, fragments of the closely related human tyrosyl- and tryptophanyl-tRNA synthetases were discovered to be active in angiogenesis signaling pathways. One synthetase fragment has proangiogenic activity, while the other is antiangiogenic. Activity was demonstrated in cell-based assays in vitro and in vivo in the chick embryo, and in the neonatal and adult mouse. The full-length, native enzymes are inactive in these same assays. Activation of angiogenesis activity requires fragment production from the native enzymes by protease cleavage or by translation of alternatively spliced pre-mRNA. Thus, these tRNA synthetases link translation to a major cell-signaling pathway in mammalian cells. The results with animals suggest that therapeutic applications are possible with these tRNA synthetases.