Cell suspensions of acetate-grown Methanosarcina barkeri mediate the conversion of CO and H2O to CO2 and H2. The reaction is coupled with the phosphorylation of ADP. Evidence is presented that CO oxidation by the cells is associated with the transient acidification of the suspension medium. Up to 2 mol vectorial protons were measured/mol CO oxidized when the transmembrane electrical gradient was kept low by the addition of valinomycin (20 nmol/mg protein) and KCl (200 mM) or of KSCN (50 mM). No transient acidification was observed in the presence of the protonophore tetrachlorosalicylanilide which stimulated rather than inhibited CO oxidation. Proton extrusion remained unaltered when the proton-translocating ATPase was specifically inhibited by dicyclohexylcarbodiimide. The latter finding indicates that proton translocation is associated with CO conversion to CO2 and H2 rather than with ATP hydrolysis in the cells. The data substantiate that the coupling of CO oxidation with ADP phosphorylation in M. barkeri occurs via a chemiosmotic mechanism.