Coenzyme QH2-cytochrome c reductase is a multisubunit complex of the mitochondrial respiratory chain. Mutants of Saccharomyces cerevisiae with lesions in cytochromes b, c1, the non-heme iron protein, and the noncatalytic subunits have been used to study several aspects of the assembly of the complex. Strains with mutations in single subunits exhibit a variety of different phenotypes. Mutants in the 17-kDa (core 3) subunit grow normally on a nonfermentable substrate indicating that this component is not essential for either enzymatic activity or assembly of the enzyme. Mutations in all the other subunits express a respiratory-deficient phenotype and the absence of detectable enzyme activity. Among the respiratory-defective strains, some have mature cytochrome b (non-heme iron protein and cytochrome c1 mutants), while other mutants lack spectrally detectable cytochrome b and have reduced levels of the apoprotein (mutants in the 44-, 40-, 14-, and 11-kDa core subunits). Mutations in single subunits exert different effects on the concentrations of their partner proteins. These may be summarized as follows: 1) No substantial loss in the 44- or 40-kDa core subunits is seen in single mutants; 2) the concentration of cytochrome c1 is also relatively unaffected by mutations in the other subunits except for the cytochrome b mutant which has 60% of the wild type level of cytochrome c1; 3) all the single mutants have only 15-20% of the normal amount of non-heme iron protein; 4) mutations in the non-heme iron protein have no appreciable effect on the concentrations of the other subunits; 5) mutations in single subunits cause parallel decreases in the concentrations of cytochrome b, the 14-, and the 11-kDa subunits. These results indicate that the synthesis or stability of a subset of subunits depends on the presence of other subunit polypeptides of the complex. At present we favor the idea that the observed changes in the concentrations of some subunits are due to higher turnover rates of the proteins in a partially assembled complex. Based on the mutant phenotypes, a tentative model for the assembly of coenzyme QH2-cytochrome c reductase is proposed. According to this model it is envisioned that the subunits interact with one another in the lipid bilayer. Maturation of apocytochrome b occurs after it is assembled with the nonstructural subunits to form a core structure. This intermediate complex interacts with the non-heme iron protein to form the active holoenzyme.