Posttranscriptional modification in RNA generally serves to fine-tune and regulate RNA structure and, in many cases, is relatively conserved and phylogenetically distinct. We report the complete modification map for SSU rRNA from Thermus thermophilus, determined primarily by HPLC/electrospray ionization MS-based methods. Thermus modification levels are significantly lower, and structures at the nucleoside level are very different from those of the archaeal thermophile Sulfolobus solfataricus growing in the same temperature range [Noon, K. R., et al. (1998) J. Bacteriol. 180, 2883-2888]. The Thermus modification map is unexpectedly similar to that of Escherichia coli (11 modified sites), with which it shares identity in 8 of the 14 modifications. Unlike the heavily methylated Sulfolobus SSU RNA, Thermus contains a single ribose-methylated residue, N(4),2'-O-dimethylcytidine-1402, suggesting that O-2'-ribose methylation in this bacterial thermophile plays a reduced role in thermostabilization compared with the thermophilic archaea. Adjacent pseudouridine residues were found in the single-stranded 3' tail of Thermus 16S rRNA at residues 1540 and 1541 (E. coli numbering) in the anti-Shine-Dalgarno mRNA binding sequence. The present results provide an example of the potential of LC/MS for extensive modification mapping in large RNAs.