The crystal structure of the bacterial 70S ribosome refined to 2.8 angstrom resolution reveals atomic details of its interactions with messenger RNA (mRNA) and transfer RNA (tRNA). A metal ion stabilizes a kink in the mRNA that demarcates the boundary between A and P sites, which is potentially important to prevent slippage of mRNA. Metal ions also stabilize the intersubunit interface. The interactions of E-site tRNA with the 50S subunit have both similarities and differences compared to those in the archaeal ribosome. The structure also rationalizes much biochemical and genetic data on translation.