The pleuromutilin antibiotic derivatives, tiamulin and valnemulin, inhibit protein synthesis by binding to the 50S ribosomal subunit of bacteria. The action and binding site of tiamulin and valnemulin was further characterized on Escherichia coli ribosomes. It was revealed that these drugs are strong inhibitors of peptidyl transferase and interact with domain V of 23S RNA, giving clear chemical footprints at nucleotides A2058-9, U2506 and U2584-5. Most of these nucleotides are highly conserved phylogenetically and functionally important, and all of them are at or near the peptidyl transferase centre and have been associated with binding of several antibiotics. Competitive footprinting shows that tiamulin and valnemulin can bind concurrently with the macrolide erythromycin but compete with the macrolide carbomycin, which is a peptidyl transferase inhibitor. We infer from these and previous results that tiamulin and valnemulin interact with the rRNA in the peptidyl transferase slot on the ribosomes in which they prevent the correct positioning of the CCA-ends of tRNAs for peptide transfer.