The initiation and elongation stages of translation are directed by codon-anticodon interactions. In contrast, a release factor protein mediates stop codon recognition prior to polypeptide chain release. Previous studies have identified specific regions of eukaryotic release factor one (eRF1) that are important for decoding each stop codon. The cavity model for eukaryotic stop codon recognition suggests that three binding pockets/cavities located on the surface of eRF1's domain one are key elements in stop codon recognition. Thus, the model predicts that amino acid changes in or near these cavities should influence termination in a stop codon-dependent manner. Previous studies have suggested that the TASNIKS and YCF motifs within eRF1 domain one play important roles in stop codon recognition. These motifs are highly conserved in standard code organisms that use UAA, UAG, and UGA as stop codons, but are more divergent in variant code organisms that have reassigned a subset of stop codons to sense codons. In the current study, we separately introduced TASNIKS and YCF motifs from six variant code organisms into eRF1 of Saccharomyces cerevisiae to determine their effect on stop codon recognition in vivo. We also examined the consequences of additional changes at residues located between the TASNIKS and YCF motifs. Overall, our results indicate that changes near cavities two and three frequently mediated significant effects on stop codon selectivity. In particular, changes in the YCF motif, rather than the TASNIKS motif, correlated most consistently with variant code stop codon selectivity. Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. Copyright © 2012 RNA Society.