Escherichia coli FtsH is a membrane-bound ATPase with a proteolytic activity against the SecY subunit of protein translocase. We now report that subunit a of the membrane-embedded Fo part of H+-ATPase is another substrate of FtsH. Pulse-chase experiments showed that subunit a is unstable when it alone (without Fo subunits b and c) was oversynthesized and that it is stabilized in the ftsH mutants. Selective and ATP-dependent degradation of subunit a by purified FtsH protein was demonstrated in vitro. These results suggest that FtsH serves as a quality-control mechanism to avoid potentially harmful accumulation of free subunit a in the membrane.