Ribosome inactivating proteins are glycosidases synthesized by many plants and have been hypothesized to serve in defence against pathogens. These enzymes catalytically remove a conserved purine from the sarcin/ricin loop of the large ribosomal RNA, which has been shown in vitro to limit protein synthesis. The resulting toxicity suggests that plants may possess a mechanism to protect their ribosomes from depurination during the synthesis of these enzymes. For example, pokeweed antiviral protein (PAP) is cotranslationally inserted into the lumen of the endoplasmic reticulum and travels via the endomembrane system to be stored in the cell wall. However, some PAP may retrotranslocate across the endoplasmic reticulum membrane to be released back into the cytosol, thereby exposing ribosomes to depurination. In this work, we isolated and characterized a complexed form of the enzyme that exhibits substantially reduced activity. We showed that this complex is a homodimer of PAP and that dimerization involves a peptide that contains a conserved aromatic amino acid, tyrosine 123, located in the active site of the enzyme. Bimolecular fluorescence complementation demonstrated that the homodimer may form in vivo and that dimerization is prevented by the substitution of tyrosine 123 for alanine. The homodimer is a minor form of PAP, observed only in the cytosol of cells and not in the apoplast. Taken together, these data support a novel mechanism for the limitation of depurination of autologous ribosomes by molecules of the protein that escape transport to the cell wall by the endomembrane system.