Helix 34 of 16 S rRNA is located in the head of the 30 S ribosomal subunit close to the decoding center and has been invoked in a number of ribosome functions. In the present work, we have studied the effects of mutations in helix 34 both in vivo and in vitro. Several nucleotides in helix 34 that are either highly conserved or form important tertiary contacts in 16 S rRNA (U961, C1109, A1191, and A1201) were mutated, and the mutant ribosomes were expressed in the Escherichia coli MC250 Δ7 strain that lacks all seven chromosomal rRNA operons. Mutations at positions A1191 and U961 reduced the efficiency of subunit association and resulted in structural rearrangements in helix 27 (position 908) and helix 31 (position 974) of 16 S rRNA. All mutants exhibited increased levels of frameshifting and non-sense readthrough. The effects on frameshifting were specific in that -1 frameshifting was enhanced with mutant A1191G and +1 frameshifting with the other mutants. Mutations of A1191 moderately (∼2-fold) inhibited tRNA translocation. No significant effects were found on efficiency and rate of initiation, misreading of sense codons, or binding of tRNA to the E site. The data indicate that helix 34 is involved in controlling the maintenance of the reading frame and in tRNA translocation.