The use of synthetic tRNA for in vitro protein engineering was tested in a coupled transcription/translation system prepared from Escherichia coli. DNA sequences similar to the natural tRNA(Ala/UGC) gene from E. coli but with different anticodons were synthesized in vitro, cloned into a DNA plasmid, and then transcribed in vitro with T7 RNA polymerase. The UGC alanine anticodon was changed to CUA corresponding to the UAG stop codon, CCU corresponding to the rarely used AGG arginine codon, and two four-nucleotide anticodons used to suppress stop codons. Bacterial dihydrofolate reductase was the test protein. Its cloned coding sequence was mutagenized at the GUG codon for valine-75 to correspond to the anticodons of the tRNA constructs, and then the plasmids were used to direct the synthesis of dihydrofolate reductase in the coupled transcription/translation system containing the corresponding synthetic tRNA. The results indicate that all four synthetic tRNAs were functionally active in the synthesis of full-length, enzymatically active dihydrofolate reductase protein.