Protein synthesis is very sensitive to NaCl. However, the molecular targets responsible for this sensitivity have not been described. A cDNA library of the halotolerant plant sugar beet was functionally screened in a sodium-sensitive yeast strain. We obtained a cDNA clone (BveIF1A) encoding the eukaryotic translation initiation factor eIF1A. BveIF1A was able to partially complement the yeast eIF1A-deficient strain. Overexpression of the sugar beet eIF1A specifically increased the sodium and lithium salt tolerance of yeast. This phenotype was not accompanied by changes in sodium or potassium homeostasis. Under salt stress conditions, yeast cells expressing BveIF1A presented a higher rate of amino acid incorporation into proteins than control cells. In an in vitro protein synthesis system from wheat germ, the BveIF1A recombinant protein improved translation in the presence of NaCl. Finally, transgenic Arabidopsis plants expressing BveIF1A exhibited increased tolerance to NaCl. These results suggest that the translation initiation factor eIF1A is an important determinant of sodium tolerance in yeast and plants.