Previous studies from our laboratory have shown that deletion of residues 321 to 344 of the 9-2 isozyme of 2'-5'-oligoadenylate (2-5(A)) synthetase causes a loss of its enzyme activity (Ghosh, S. K., Kusari, J., Bandyopadhyay, S. K., Samanta, H., Kumar, R., and Sen, G. C. (1991) J. Biol. Chem. 266, 15293-15299). Sequence comparison of this region among the different isozymes of 2-5(A) synthetases revealed that the residues at positions 330 to 333 are highly conserved. Alanine-scanning mutagenesis of these residues demonstrated that the residues present at 331, 332, and 333 are important for activity but the proline at position 330 was dispensable. The triple mutant containing Ala residues at 331, 332, and 333 was completely inactive. Different double mutants were slightly active, and the three single mutants were partially active. The triple mutant was further characterized for delineating the nature of its defect. The mutant protein was enzymatically inactive irrespective of whether it was synthesized in rabbit reticulocyte lysate, Escherichia coli or Trichoplusia ni insect cells. It could bind double-stranded RNA and ATP as efficiently as the wild type protein. It was, however, defective in oligomerization. Gel filtration and sedimentation velocity analyses of in vitro synthesized proteins revealed that the wild type protein, but not the triple mutant, formed tetramers. The tetrameric fraction, but not the monomeric fraction of the wild type protein was enzymatically active. The failure of the triple mutant to participate in homomeric protein-protein interaction was confirmed by in vivo assays in insect cells. These results indicate that tetramerization of the protein is required for the enzymatic activity of the small 2-5(A) synthetases.