Tentoxin, a cyclic tetrapeptide produced by the fungus Alternaria tenuis, is a potent inhibitor of the chloroplast coupling factor 1 from certain sensitive species of plants. We have shown that the beta subunit is at least partly responsible for conferring sensitivity to the toxin. This was confirmed by Avni et al. (Avni, A., Anderson, J.D., Holland, N., Rochaix, J-D., Gromet-Elhanan, Z., and Edelman, M. (1992) Science 257, 1245-1247) who demonstrated the importance for tentoxin sensitivity of an acidic amino acid residue at position 83 in the beta subunit sequence. In this paper we show that the Ca(2+)-ATPase and Mg(2+)-ATPase activities of CF1 lacking the delta and epsilon subunits, CF1(-delta epsilon), were fully sensitive to tentoxin, even after the gamma subunit is cleaved by trypsin into several smaller fragments. We also show that the isolated reconstitutively active beta subunit of CF1 does not effectively compete with CF1(-delta epsilon) for tentoxin binding. The results suggest that tight tentoxin binding requires the presence of at least the alpha and beta subunits but is independent of the delta and epsilon subunits. Tentoxin inhibited the release of a tightly bound molecule of ADP from CF1, which was induced by the binding of the ATP analogue adenylyl-beta,gamma-imidodiphosphate (AMP-PNP). AMP-PNP was shown previously (Shapiro, A.B., and McCarty, R.E. (1990) J. Biol. Chem. 265, 4340-4347) to cause two adenine nucleotide binding sites on CF1, sites 1 and 3, to switch their properties, possibly as part of an alternating site catalytic cooperativity mechanism (Boyer, P.D. (1989) FASEB J. 3, 2164-2178). It is proposed that the effect of tentoxin on catalytic cooperativity in CF1 results from tentoxin binding at an interface between alpha and beta subunits, preventing transfer of information between different nucleotide binding sites on the enzyme.