Bolesatine is a potent cytotoxic glycoprotein purified from Boletus satanas Lenz, which has previously been shown to be an inhibitor of protein synthesis in several in vitro systems and in vivo. For a better understanding of its mechanism of action on protein synthesis at the ribosomal level, rat liver ribosomes were pretreated with bolesatine (1 to 10 micrograms) added to in vitro polyuridylic acid (poly(U)) translation systems before and after washing. The fact that ribosomes were still active confirmed that bolesatine cannot be included in the group of protein synthesis inhibitors of plant origin, known as ribosome-inactivating proteins (RIPs). The effect of bolesatine on the EF-2 elongation factor and post-ribosomal fraction was then studied in vitro. The results indicated that bolesatine does not have a direct effect on elongation factors, but hydrolyses the nucleoside triphosphates, GTP (80% to 90%, respectively for 1 to 10 micrograms) and ATP (10% to 40%, respectively for 1 to 10 micrograms), with consequent inhibition of protein synthesis. Thus, bolesatine should be classified as a nucleoside triphosphate phosphatase, rather than as a direct inhibitor of protein synthesis. The study of the effect of bolesatine on the EF-2 factor revealed that the mechanism whereby bolesatine affects protein synthesis probably involves GTP hydrolysis rather than EF-2 inhibition.