NMR titration curves are reported for the 4 histidine residues of ribonuclease A in sodium acetate and for ribonuclease S in sodium acetate, phosphate, and sulfate solutions. Evidence is presented that the imidazole side chain of histidine residue 48 undergoes a conformational change, probably also involving the carboxyl side chain of aspartic acid residue 14. This group is considered to be responsible for the low pH inflection with pKa 4.2 present in the NMR titration curve of the C-2 proton resonance of histidine 48. The NMR titration curves of the active site histidine residues 12 and 119 also exhibit inflections at low pH values, although there is no carboxyl group within 9 A of the imidazole side chain of histidine residue 12 in the structure of ribonuclease S determined by x-ray crystallography (Wyckoff, H. W., Tsernoglou, D., Hanson, A. W. Knox, J. R., Lee, B., and Richards, F. M. (1970) J. Biol. Chem. 245, 305-328). Curve fitting was carried out on 11 sets of NMR titration data using a model in which the 3 histidine residues 12, 119, and 48 are assumed to be affected by a common carboxyl group. The results obtained indicate that such a model with fewer parameters gives as good a representation of the data as the model in which each histidine residue is assumed to interact separately with a different carboxyl group. Therefore, it is concluded that the ionization of aspartic acid residue 14 is indirectly experienced by the active site histidine residues through the conformational change at histidine 48. A model assuming mutual interaction of the active site histidine residues does not account for the low pH inflections in these curves.