Thrust for propulsion of flagellated bacteria is generated by rotation of a propeller, the flagellum. The power to drive the polar flagellar rotary motor of Vibrio parahaemolyticus is derived from the transmembrane potential of sodium ions. Force is generated by the motor on coupling of the movement of ions across the membrane to rotation of the flagellum. A gene, motX, encoding one component of the torque generator has been cloned and sequenced. The deduced protein sequence is 212 amino acids in length. MotX was localized to the membrane and shown to interact with MotY, which is the presumed stationary component of the motor. Overproduction of MotX, but not that of a nonfunctional mutant MotX, was lethal to Escherichia coli. The rate of lysis caused by induction of motX was proportional to the sodium ion concentration. Li+ and K+ substituted for Na+ to promote lysis, while Ca2+ did not enhance lysis. Protection from the lethal effects of induction of motX was afforded by the sodium channel blocker amiloride. The data suggest that MotX forms a sodium channel. The deduced protein sequence for MotX shows no homology to its ion-conducting counterpart in the proton-driven motor; however, in possessing only one hydrophobic domain, it resembles other channels formed by small proteins with single membrane-spanning domains.