The interaction of soluble mitochondrial ATPase from beef heart with the natural ATPase inhibitor was studied. It was found that the phosphorylation of small amounts of ADP by phosphoenolpyruvate and pyruvate kinase, and an ensuing catalytic cycle supports the binding of the inhibitor to the enzyme. The association of the inhibitor with F1-ATPase does not increase the content of ATP in the F1-ATPase-inhibitor complex. The inhibitor of catalytic activity bathophenanthroline-Fe2+ chelate prevents the interaction, while the association of the inhibitor with F1-ATPase is delayed if the reaction is carried out in 2H2O. The date indicate that a transient state involved in the catalytic cycle is the form of the enzyme that interacts with the inhibitor. The proton-motive force-induced dissociation of the inhibitor from particulate ATPase is prevented by bathophenanthroline-Fe2+ chelate and nitrobenzofurazan chloride, which indicates that a functional catalytic (beta) subunit is required for the proton-motive force-induced release of the inhibitor. The data suggest a direct involvement of catalytic (beta) subunit in the mechanism by which the F1-ATPase senses the proton-motive force.