We have shown previously that mutations in nuclear genes, termed MGI, for mitochondrial genome integrity, can convert the petite-negative yeast Kluyveromyces lactis into a petite-positive form with the ability to produce mitochondrial genome deletion mutants (Chen and Clark-Walker, Genetics, 133, 517-525, 1993). Here we describe that two genes, MGI2 and MGI5, encode the alpha- and gamma-subunits of mitochondrial F1-ATPase. Specific mutations, Phe443-->Ser and Ala333-->Val in MGI2, and Thr275-->Ala in MGI5, confer on cells the ability to produce petite mutants spontaneously with deletions in mitochondrial (mt) DNA and the capacity to lose their mitochondrial genomes upon treatment with ethidium bromide. Structural integrity of the F1 complex seems to be needed for expression of the Mgi- phenotype as null mutations in MGI2 and MGI5 remove the ability to form mtDNA deletions. It is suggested that mgi mutations allow petites to survive because an aberrant F1 complex prevents collapse of the mitochondrial inner membrane potential that normally occurs on loss of mtDNA-encoded F0 subunits.