Although Saccharomyces cerevisiae can form petite mutants with deletions in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) (rho-) and can survive complete loss of the organellar genome (rho(o)), the genetic factor(s) that permit(s) survival of rho- and rho(o) mutants remain(s) unknown. In this report we show that a function associated with the F1-ATPase, which is distinct from its role in energy transduction, is required for the petite-positive phenotype of S. cerevisiae. Inactivation of either the alpha or beta subunit, but not the gamma, delta, or epsilon subunit of F1, renders cells petite-negative. The F1 complex, or a subcomplex composed of the alpha and beta subunits only, is essential for survival of rho(o) cells and those impaired in electron transport. The activity of F1 that suppresses rho(o) lethality is independent of the membrane Fo complex, but is associated with an intrinsic ATPase activity. A further demonstration of the ability of F1 subunits to suppress rho(o) lethality has been achieved by simultaneous expression of S. cerevisiae F1 alpha and gamma subunit genes in Kluyveromyces lactis - which allows this petite-negative yeast to survive the loss of its mtDNA. Consequently, ATP1 and ATP2, in addition to the previously identified AAC2, YME1 and PEL1/PGS1 genes, are required for establishment of rho- or rho(o) mutations in S. cerevisiae.