Macrolide antibiotics are clinically important antibiotics which are effective inhibitors of protein biosynthesis in bacterial cells. We have recently shown that some of these compounds also inhibit 50S ribosomal subunit formation in Escherichia coli. Now we show that certain macrolides have the same effect in two gram-positive organisms, Bacillus subtilis and Staphylococcus aureus. Assembly in B. subtilis was prevented by erythromycin, clarithromycin, and azithromycin but not by oleandomycin. 50S subunit formation in S. aureus was prevented by each of seven structurally related 14-membered macrolides but not by lincomycin or two streptogramin antibiotics. Erythromycin treatment did not stimulate the breakdown of performed 50S subunits in either organism. The formation of the 30S ribosomal subunit was also unaffected by these compounds. Assembly was also inhibited in a B. subtilis strain carrying a plasmid with the ermC gene that confers macrolide resistance by rRNA methylation. These results suggest that ribosomes contain an additional site for the inhibitory functions of macrolide antibiotics.