RNA phosphodiester bonds can be cleaved by metal ions, of which Pb2+ is one of the most effective. It can cleave both generally and site-specifically, depending on the substrate and the conditions. In addition, metal ions are also known to cleave ester bonds between amino acid and the 3'-end of transfer RNA. Here we report that in aminoacylated transfer RNA, Pb2+ ions cleave internucleotide bonds in the 3'-end of tRNA and also cleaves the bond between tRNA and its amino-acid, attached at the 3'-end via an ester bond to the terminal ribose in aminoacyl tRNA. The two reactions proceed at different rates. The rate of deacylation is significantly faster than the rate of cleavage of phosphodiester bonds, with a pH-optimum of 7. This dual hydrolytic role is not seen for other metal ions examined, namely Zn(II), Cd(II) and Mn(II). The rate of the two kinds of hydrolyses by Pb2+ ions is compared with that of other metal-ions. The mechanism of cleavage is investigated further by modification of the 3'-end of tRNA.