Extensive studies in our laboratory using different ribonucleases resulted in valuable data on the topography of the E.coli 16S ribosomal RNA within the native 30S subunit, within partially unfolded 30S subunits, in the free state, and in association with individual ribosomal proteins. Such studies have precise details on the accessibility of certain residues and delineated highly accessible RNA regions. Furthermore, they provided evidence that the 16S rRNA is organized in its subunit into four distinct domains. A secondary structure model of the E.coli 16S rRNA has been derived from these topographical data. Additional information from comparative sequence analyses of the small ribosomal subunit RNAs from other species sequenced so far has been used.