The rare codons AGG and AGA comprise 2% and 4%, respectively, of the arginine codons of Escherichia coli K-12, and their cognate tRNAs are sparse. At tandem occurrences of either rare codon, the paucity of cognate aminoacyl tRNAs for the second codon of the pair facilitates peptidyl-tRNA shifting to the +1 frame. However, AGG_AGG and AGA_AGA are not underrepresented and occur 4 and 42 times, respectively, in E. coli genes. Searches for corresponding occurrences in other bacteria provide no strong support for the functional utilization of frameshifting at these sequences. All sequences tested in their native context showed 1.5 to 11% frameshifting when expressed from multicopy plasmids. A cassette with one of these sequences singly integrated into the chromosome in stringent cells gave 0.9% frameshifting in contrast to two- to four-times-higher values obtained from multicopy plasmids in stringent cells and eight-times-higher values in relaxed cells. Thus, +1 frameshifting efficiency at AGG_AGG and AGA_AGA is influenced by the mRNA expression level. These tandem rare codons do not occur in highly expressed mRNAs.