We examined mutationally a two-hairpin structure (nucleotides 57 to 70 and 76 to 110) in a region of domain I of Escherichia coli 23S rRNA that has been implicated in specific functions in protein synthesis by other studies. On the basis of the observed covariance of several nucleotides in each loop in Bacteria, Archaea, and chloroplasts, the two hairpins have been proposed to form a pseudoknot. Here, appropriate loop changes were introduced in vitro by site-directed mutagenesis to eliminate any possibility of base pairing between the loops. The bacterial cells containing each cloned mutant rRNA operon were then examined for cell growth, termination codon readthrough, and assembly of the mutant rRNAs into functional ribosomes. The results show that, under the conditions examined, the two hairpins do not form a pseudoknot structure that is required for the functioning of the ribosome in vivo and therefore that sequence covariance does not necessarily indicate the formation of a functional pseudoknot.