We have identified the binding site on the bacteriophage T4 gene 32 mRNA responsible for autogenous translational regulation. We demonstrate that this site is largely unstructured and overlaps the initiation codon of gene 32 as previously predicted. Co-operative binding of gene 32 protein to this site specifically blocks the formation of 30 S-tRNAmetf-gene 32 mRNA ternary complexes and initiation of translation. The translational operator is bound co-operatively by gene 32 protein and this binding is facilitated by a nucleation site far upstream from the initiation codon. A similar unstructured mRNA lacking this nucleation site is also bound co-operatively, but only at concentrations of gene 32 protein higher than those needed to repress binding of ribosomes to the gene 32 mRNA. Some sequence-specific interactions may also influence this binding. Comparison of the bacteriophage T2, T4 and T6 gene 32 operator sequences leads us to propose that the nucleation site is a pseudoknot.