The core enzyme of mitochondrial RNA polymerase in yeast is homologous to those of bacteriophages T3, T7 and SP6. In previous studies the identification of the first conditional yeast mutant for this enzyme helped to identify the corresponding specificity factor and to elucidate their interaction inside mitochondria. In the present study we report the identification of a second nuclear mutation located in the gene for mitochondrial RNA polymerase. A comparison of the two temperature-sensitive mutants demonstrates that the new mutant has a phenotype distinct from the first one and characterizes a new important domain of the enzyme. Two different suppressor genes which both rescue the first mutant do not abolish the defect of the second one and, in addition, an extremely high instability of mitochondrial genomes is observed in the new mutant. The enzymatic defect is caused by a single nucleotide exchange which results in the replacement of the serine938 residue by phenylalanine. This amino acid is located in the middle part of the protein in an as yet poorly characterized region that is not highly conserved between mitochondrial core enzymes and bacteriophage-type RNA polymerases. However, the affected amino acid and the respective protein domain are specific for mitochondrial RNA polymerase core enzymes and may help to define enzymatic functions specific for the mitochondrial transcription apparatus.