The stalk region of the H+-ATPase from Saccharomyces cerevisiae has been proposed to play a role in coupling ATP hydrolysis to proton transport. Genetic probing was used to examine the role of stalk segments S2 and S3, associated with M2 and M3, respectively. Saturation mutagenesis was used to explore the role of side group character at position Ile183 in S2, at which an alanine substitution was shown previously to partially uncouple the enzyme (Wang, G., Tamas, M. J., Hall, M. J., Pascual-Ahuir, A., and Perlin, D. S. (1996) J. Biol. Chem. 271, 25438-25445). Diverse side group substitutions were tolerated at this position, although three substitutions, I183N, I183R, and I183Y required second site mutations at the C terminus of the enzyme for stabilization. Substitution of glycine and proline at Ile183 resulted in lethal phenotypes, suggesting that the backbone may be more important than side group at this position. Proline/glycine mutagenesis was used to study additional sites in S2 and S3. The substitution of proline at Gly186 resulted in a lethal phenotype, whereas substitutions in S3 of proline or serine at Gly270 and proline or glycine at Thr287 resulted in viable mutants. Mutations G270P and T287P resulted in mutant enzymes that produced pronounced growth defects and ATP hydrolysis rates that were 35% and 60% lower than wild type enzyme, respectively. The mutant enzymes transported protons at rates consistent with their ATPase activity, suggesting that the growth defects observed were due to a reduced rate of ATP hydrolysis and not to uncoupling of proton transport. The prominent growth phenotypes produced by mutations G270P and T287P permitted the isolation of suppressor mutations, which restored wild type growth. Most of the suppressors either replaced the primary site mutation with alanine or restored the wild type residue by ectopic recombination with PMA2, both of which restore alpha-helical tendency. This study suggests that maintaining alpha-helical character is essential to S2 and may play an important role in S3.