In bacteria, ribosomes often become stalled and are released by a trans-translation process mediated by transfer-messenger RNA (tmRNA). In the absence of tmRNA, however, there is evidence that stalled ribosomes are released from non-stop mRNAs. Here, we show a novel ribosome rescue system mediated by a small basic protein, YaeJ, from Escherichia coli, which is similar in sequence and structure to the catalytic domain 3 of polypeptide chain release factor (RF). In vitro translation experiments using the E. coli-based reconstituted cell-free protein synthesis system revealed that YaeJ can hydrolyze peptidyl-tRNA on ribosomes stalled by both non-stop mRNAs and mRNAs containing rare codon clusters that extend downstream from the P-site and prevent Ala-tmRNA•SmpB from entering the empty A-site. In addition, YaeJ had no effect on translation of a normal mRNA with a stop codon. These results suggested a novel tmRNA-independent rescue system for stalled ribosomes in E. coli. YaeJ was almost exclusively found in the 70S ribosome and polysome fractions after sucrose density gradient sedimentation, but was virtually undetectable in soluble fractions. The C-terminal basic residue-rich extension was also found to be required for ribosome binding. These findings suggest that YaeJ functions as a ribosome-attached rescue device for stalled ribosomes.