The three major capsid proteins of adeno-associated virus type 2 (AAV2) virions are designated A, B, and C and have molecular sizes of 90, 72, and 60 kDa, respectively. These proteins are related, and genetic studies have shown they are encoded by a long open reading frame located in the right half of the genome. The coding capacity distal to the first ATG in this reading frame is only 503 amino acids (i.e., a protein about the size of protein C), but an open frame sequence devoid of ATG codons extends upstream for an additional 184 codons. Although the amino terminus of the C capsid protein is blocked, partial amino acid sequence analyses of peptides from C have confirmed that it is encoded within the portion of the reading frame distal to the first ATG at nucleotide (nt) location 2810. The amino terminus of the B capsid protein is not blocked, and its sequence begins with alanine. The triplet encoding this alanine lies 64 codons upstream from the initiation site for protein C and is immediately preceded by the threonine codon, ACG, at nt 2615. This ACG codon lies in the most favorable sequence context for protein synthesis initiation. All three AAV2 capsid proteins are labeled in vitro with formyl[35S]methionyl-tRNAf, indicating that synthesis of each protein is initiated independently. Our data suggest that the nt 2615 ACG codon directs the methionyl-tRNA-dependent initiation of the AAV2 B capsid protein. Proteins B and C may be synthesized from the same mRNA species and their relative abundance could be determined by the efficiencies of their respective initiation codons.