Soluble mitochondrial F1 and F1 in complex with the natural ATPase inhibitor protein (F1-IP) catalyze the spontaneous synthesis of [gamma-32P]ATP from medium [32P]phosphate and enzyme-bound ADP when incubated in media with dimethylsulfoxide (Me2SO); under these conditions, the synthesized [gamma-32P]ATP is not released into the media, it remains tightly bound to the enzymes [Gómez-Puyou, A., Tuena de Gómez-Puyou, M. & de Meis, L. (1986) Eur. J. Biochem. 159, 133-140]. Some of the characteristics of the synthesized [gamma-32P]ATP were studied in F1 and F1-IP (ATPase activities of 70 and 1-3 micromol x min(-1) x mg(-1), respectively). In Me2SO media, gamma-phosphate of synthesized ATP in F1 or F1-IP exchanges with medium phosphate. From the rates of the exchange reaction, the half-times for hydrolysis of the synthesized ATP in F1 and F1-IP were calculated: 45 min and 58 min for F1 and F1-IP, respectively. The course that synthesized [gamma-32P]ATP follows after dilution of the Me2SO synthetic mixture with aqueous buffer was determined. After dilution, the half-life of synthesized ATP in F1 was less than 1 min. In F1-IP, ATP was also hydrolyzed, but at significantly lower rates. In F1-IP, dilution also produced release of the synthesized [gamma-32P]ATP. This was assayed by the accessibility of [gamma-32P]ATP to hexokinase. About 25% of [gamma-32P]ATP synthesized in F1-IP, but not in F1, was released into the media after dilution with aqueous buffer that contained 20 mM phosphate. Release of tightly bound ATP required the binding energy of phosphate and solvation of F1-IP, however, the particular kinetics of F1-IP were also central for medium ATP synthesis in the absence of electrochemical H+ gradients.