The cytochrome c oxidase enzyme (COX) is comprised of 10 nuclear-encoded subunits and three mitochondrial-encoded subunits in close physical association in the inner mitochondrial membrane. COX passes electrons from cytochrome c to molecular oxygen and pumps protons into the inner mitochondrial space for ATP production. Selection on nuclear-mitochondrial interactions within species should lead to coadaptation of the proteins comprising this important enzyme. Under this model, there should be relatively little disruption of COX activity when mitochondrial genomes are crossed among strains within species. A more pronounced disruption of activity is expected when the mitochondrial genome is expressed in the nuclear background of a different species. We test these hypotheses in Drosophila using hybridization and backcrossing among lines of D. simulans and D. mauritiana. Disrupted cytonuclear genotypes were constructed using backcrosses between two lines of D. simulans (siI and siII) that introduced each divergent mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) into each nuclear background due to maternal inheritance of mtDNA. Similar crosses were used to introduce each D. simulans mtDNA into the D. mauritiana maI nuclear background. Reconstituted cytonuclear control genotypes were constructed by backcrossing the initial F1 females to males of the maternal genotype. COX enzyme activities were compared among these disrupted and reconstituted backcross genotypes within and between species. The disruption effect on COX activity was restricted to males of interspecific genotypes. These data support the coadaptation hypothesis and are consistent with predictions that the evolution of modifiers of male mitochondrial dysfunction is hindered by the maternal inheritance of mtDNA. New sequence data for nuclear encoded subunits of COX identified amino acids that may play a role in the disruption effect.