1. The behaviour of the large ribosomal subunit from Rhodopseudomonas spheroides (45S) has been compared with the 50S ribosome from Escherichia coli M.R.E. 600 (and E. coli M.R.E. 162) during unfolding by removal of Mg2+ and detachment of ribosomal proteins by high univalent cation concentrations. The extent to which these processes are reversible with these ribosomes has also been examined. 2. The R. spheroides 45S ribosome unfolds relatively slowly but then gives rise directly to two ribonucleoprotein particles (16.6S and 13.7S); the former contains the intact primary structure of the 16.25S rRNA species and the latter the 15.00S rRNA species of the original ribosome. No detectable protein loss occurs during unfolding. The E. coli ribosome unfolds via a series of discrete intermediates to a single, unfolded ribonucleoprotein unit (19.1S) containing the 23S rRNA and all the protein of the original ribosome. 3. The two unfolded R. spheroides ribonucleoproteins did not recombine when the original conditions were restored but each simply assumed a more compact configuration. Similar treatments reversed the unfolding of the E. coli 50S ribosomes; replacement of Mg2+ caused the refolding of the initial products of unfolding and in the presence of Ni2+ the completely unfolded species (19.1S) again sedimented at the same rate as the original ribosomes (44S). 4. Ribosomal proteins (25%) were dissociated from R. spheroides 45S ribosomes by dialysis against a solution with a Na+/Mg2+ ratio of 250:1. During this process two core particles were formed (21.2S and 14.2S) and the primary structures of the two original rRNA species were conserved. This dissociation was not reversed. With E. coli 50S approximately 15% of the original ribosomal protein was dissociated, a single 37.6S core particle was formed, the 23S rRNA remained intact and the ribosomal proteins would reassociate with the core particle to give a 50S ribosome. 5. The ribonuclease activities in R. spheroides 45S and E. coli M.R.E. 600 and E. coli M.R.E. 162 50S ribosomes are compared. 6. The observations concerning unfolding and dissociation are consistent with previous reports showing the unusual rRNA complement of the mature R. spheroides 45S ribosome and show the dependence of these events upon the rRNA and the importance of protein–protein interactions in the structure of the R. spheroides ribosome.

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