Legume nodules have specialized transport functions for the exchange of carbon and nitrogen compounds between bacteroids and root cells. Plasma membrane-type (vanadate-sensitive) H+-ATPase energizes secondary active transporters in plant cells and it could drive exchanges across peribacteroidal and plasmatic membranes. A nodule cDNA corresponding to a major isoform of Phaseolus vulgaris H+-ATPase (designated BHA1) has been cloned. BHA1 is a functional proton pump because after removal of its inhibitory domain and can complement a yeast mutant unable to synthesize a H+-ATPase. BHA1 is not nodule-specific, since it is also expressed in roots of uninfected plants. It belongs to the subfamily of plasma membrane H+-ATPases defined by the Arabidopsis AHA1, AHA2 and AHA3 genes and the tobacco PMA4 and corn MHA2 genes. In situ hybridization in nodule sections indicates high expression of BHA1 limited to uninfected cells. These results were confirmed by immunocytochemistry. The relatively low expression of plasma membrane-type H+-ATPase in Rhizobium-infected cells put a note of caution on the origin of the vanadate-sensitive ATPase described in preparations of peribacteroidal membranes. Also, our results indicate that active transport in symbiotic nodules is most intense at the plasma membrane of uninfected cells and support a specialized role of uninfected tissue for nitrogen transport.