The pre-steady-state kinetics of beef heart mitochondrial ATPase (F1) were examined. F1 was found to exhibit hysteretic behavior when hydrolyzing ATP. The hysteretic property was expressed as an activation process which occurred when the enzyme was mixed with its substrate, MgATP. Many catalytic turnovers were required before the activation was complete. The lag in hydrolysis increased hyperbolically as the concentration of enzyme increased. Passage of F1 through Sephadex G25 eliminated the activation process. Several kinetically distinct possibilities for explaining these data, including multiple nucleotide dissociations, enzyme conformational changes, and regulatory site interactions, are discussed. The enzyme was apparently able to recognize nucleotide in a noncatalytic manner, as evidenced by the fact that F1 preincubated with ADP in the absence of substrate achieved partial activation (smaller lag times) before being introduced to substrate. ADP is also a time-dependent inhibitor, exhibiting a slow hysteretic inhibition in addition to immediate competitive inhibition.