Factors affecting translation of mRNA contribute to the complexity of eukaryotic proteomes. In some cases, translation of a particular mRNA can generate multiple proteins. However, the factors that determine whether ribosomes initiate translation from the first AUG codon in the transcript, from a downstream codon, or from multiple sites are not completely understood. Various mRNA properties, including AUG codon-accessibility and 5' leader length have been proposed as potential determinants that affect where ribosomes initiate translation. To explore this issue, we performed studies using synthetic mRNAs with two in-frame AUG codons-both in excellent context. Open reading frames initiating at AUG1 and AUG2 encode large and small isoforms of a reporter protein, respectively. Translation of such an mRNA in COS-7 cells was shown to be 5' cap-dependent and to occur efficiently from both AUG codons. AUG codon-accessibility was modified by using two different elements: an antisense locked nucleic acid oligonucleotide and an exon-junction complex. When either element was used to mask AUG1, the ratio of the proteins synthesized changed, favoring the smaller (AUG2-initiated) protein. In addition, we observed that increased leader length by itself changed the ratio of the proteins and favored initiation at AUG1. These observations demonstrate that initiation codon selection is affected by various factors, including AUG codon-accessibility and 5' leader length, and is not necessarily determined by the order of AUG codons (5'→3'). The modulation of AUG codon accessibility may provide a powerful means of translation regulation in eukaryotic cells.