The site-specific incorporation of non-canonical amino acids (ncAAs) at amber codons requires an aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase and a cognate amber suppressor tRNA (tRNACUA ). The archaeal tyrosyl-tRNA synthetase from Methanocaldococcus jannaschii and the pyrrolysyl-tRNA synthetase (PylRS) from Methanosarcina mazei have been extensively engineered to accept a versatile set of ncAAs. The PylRS/tRNACUA pair from the bacterium Desulfitobacterium hafniense is functional in Escherichia coli, however, variants of this PylRS have not been reported yet. In this study, the authors describe a bacterial PylRS from Desulfitobacterium hafniense, which the authors engineered for the reactive ncAA para-azido-l-phenylalanine (DhAzFRS) using a semi-rational approach. DhAzFRS preferred para-azido-l-phenylalanine to the canonical l-phenylalanine as the substrate. In addition, the authors demonstrate the functionality in E. coli of a hybrid DhAzFRS carrying the first 190 N-terminal amino acids of the Methanosarcina mazei PylRS. These results suggest that bacterial and archaeal PylRSs can be "mixed and matched" to tune their substrate specificity.