Many chloroplast transcripts are protected against exonucleolytic degradation by RNA-binding proteins. Such interactions can lead to the accumulation of short RNAs (sRNAs) that represent footprints of the protein partner. By mining existing data sets of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii small RNAs, we identify chloroplast sRNAs. Two of these correspond to the 5′-ends of the mature psbB and psbH messenger RNAs (mRNAs), which are both stabilized by the nucleus-encoded protein Mbb1, a member of the tetratricopeptide repeat family. Accordingly, we find that the two sRNAs are absent from the mbb1 mutant. Using chloroplast transformation and site-directed mutagenesis to survey the psbB 5′ UTR, we identify a cis-acting element that is essential for mRNA accumulation. This sequence is also found in the 5′ UTR of psbH, where it plays a role in RNA processing. The two sRNAs are centered on these cis-acting elements. Furthermore, RNA binding assays in vitro show that Mbb1 associates with the two elements specifically. Taken together, our data identify a conserved cis-acting element at the extremity of the psbH and psbB 5′ UTRs that plays a role in the processing and stability of the respective mRNAs through interactions with the tetratricopeptide repeat protein Mbb1 and leads to the accumulation of protected sRNAs.