The stoichiometry between proton translocation and ATP synthesis/hydrolysis was studied in two different photosynthetic prokaryotes, the thermophilic cyanobacterium Synechococcus 6716 and the purple bacterium Rhodospirillum rubrum. The H+/ATP ratio was determined by acid-base transitions as a function of the external pH. The H+/ATP ratio of the Synechococcus 6716 ATP synthase was found to increase with increasing pH. In contrast, in R. rubrum this ratio decreased with increasing pH. These results were qualitatively supported by experiments using the fluorescence probe 9-aminoacridine. The degree of coupling between the H+ flux and the ATP synthesis/hydrolysis reaction is apparently modulated by the conditions under which the proton pump has to work. Such modulation of the H+/ATP ratio may be of physiological significance for an organism, for example when ATP synthesis is necessary at low proton-electrochemical potential difference (delta mu H+ levels). The different pH dependencies of the H+/ATP ratios in these organisms are considered in relation to the differences in the charged amino acids that are present in the F0 subunits a and c.