In eukaryotes, translation termination is performed by eRF1, which recognizes stop codons via its N-terminal domain. Many previous studies based on point mutagenesis, cross-linking experiments or eRF1 chimeras have investigated the mechanism by which the stop signal is decoded by eRF1. Conserved motifs, such as GTS and YxCxxxF, were found to be important for termination efficiency, but the recognition mechanism remains unclear. We characterized a region of the eRF1 N-terminal domain, the P1 pocket, that we had previously shown to be involved in termination efficiency. We performed alanine scanning mutagenesis of this region, and we quantified in vivo readthrough efficiency for each alanine mutant. We identified two residues, arginine 65 and lysine 109, as critical for recognition of the three stop codons. We also demonstrated a role for the serine 33 and serine 70 residues in UGA decoding in vivo. NMR analysis of the alanine mutants revealed that the correct conformation of this region was controlled by the YxCxxxF motif. By combining our genetic data with a structural analysis of eRF1 mutants, we were able to formulate a new model in which the stop codon interacts with eRF1 through the P1 pocket.