Alu-like elements comprise the most abundant family of interspersed repetitive sequences in primates and rodents, and contain many features of processed genes, suggesting that they were initially derived by reverse transcription of processed RNA transcripts. Transcripts containing Alu family members are represented in heterologous nuclear RNAs, cytoplasmic messenger RNAs and small RNAs, although nothing is known about their function. Evolutionary studies strongly suggest that the parent RNA for the Alu-like elements is the highly conserved 7SL RNA, which is an essential component of signal recognition particle (SRP), a small cytoplasmic ribonucleoprotein whose function is the targeting of nascent secretory and membrane proteins to the rough endoplasmic reticulum (for a review see ref. 6). 7SL RNA is composed of both unique and Alu-like sequences. SRP is rod-shaped and, in addition to its RNA, contains four proteins (two monomers composed of a polypeptide of relative molecular mass (Mr) 19,000 (19K) and one of 54K, and two heterodimers, one composed of a 9K and a 14K polypeptide, and the other composed of a 68K and a 72K polypeptide, respectively). The RNA moiety is required for SRP activity, as well as for structural integrity of the particle. To investigate whether the Alu-like segments of 7SL RNA have a specific role in SRP activity, we have now purified and analysed a SRP subparticle that is created upon extensive digestion with micrococcal nuclease and entirely lacks the Alu-like sequences. We find that it contains the 72/68K, 54K and 19K proteins tightly bound, but lacks the 9/14K protein. In vitro activity assays demonstrated that the subparticle could still promote secretory protein translocation across the microsomal membrane, but could no longer trigger an arrest of pre-secretory protein synthesis. Re-addition of the 9/14K protein did not restore the elongation arrest. We conclude that the region of SRP comprised of the Alu-like RNA and the 9/14K protein exists in a distinct structural domain which is not required for the protein translocation promoted by SRP but apparently confers elongation-arresting activity on the particle.