50S ribosomal subunits from the extreme halophilic archaebacterium Haloarcula marismortui were treated with the homobifunctional protein-protein cross-linking reagents diepoxybutane (4 A) and dithiobis(succinimidyl propionate) (12 A). The dominant product with both cross-linking reagents was identified on the protein level as HmaL23-HmaL29, which is homologous to the protein pair L23-L29 from Escherichia coli [Walleczek, J., Martin, T., Redl, B., Stöffler-Meilicke, M., & Stöffler, G. (1989) Biochemistry 28, 4099-4105] and from Bacillus stearothermophilus [Brockmöller, J., & Kamp, R. M. (1986) Biol. Chem. Hoppe-Seyler 367, 925-935]. To reveal the exact cross-linking site in HmaL23-HmaL29, the cross-linked complex was purified on a preparative scale by conventional and high-performance liquid chromatography. After endoproteolytic fragmentation of the protein pair, the amino acids engaged in cross-link formation were unambiguously identified by N-terminal sequence analysis and mass spectrometry of the cross-linked peptides. The cross-link is formed between lysine-57 in the C-terminal region of HmaL29 and the alpha-amino group of the N-terminal serine in protein HmaL23, irrespective of the cross-linking reagent. This result demonstrates that the N-terminal region of protein HmaL23 and the C-terminal domain of HmaL29 are highly flexible so that the distance between the two polypeptide chains can vary by at least 8 A. Comparison of our cross-linking results with those obtained with B. stearothermophilus revealed that the fine structure within this ribosomal domain is at least partially conserved.