The complete range of published sequences for ribosomal RNA (or rDNA), totalling well over 50,000 bases, has been used to derive refined models for the secondary structures of both 16S and 23S RNA from E. coli. Particular attention has been paid to resolving the differences between the various published secondary structures for these molecules. The structures are described in terms of 133 helical regions (45 for 16S RNA and 88 for 23S RNA). Of these, approximately 20 are still tentative or unconfirmed. A further 20 represent helical regions which definitely exist, but where the detailed base-pairing is still open to discussion. Over 90 of the helical regions are however now precisely established, at least to within one or two base pairs.