Oligonucleotide-directed, site-specific mutagenesis has been utilized to replace cysteine residues 1 17, 333, or 353 and 355 with serine in the lac permease of Escherichia coli. Replacement of Cys-117 or Cys-333 has no significant effect on permease activity, while permease with serine residues in place of Cys-353 and Cys-355 has about 50% of wild-type permease activity. The results provide a clear demonstration that cysteine residues at positions 117, 333, 353, and 355 are not obligatory for lactose/H+ symport. When considered in conjunction with previous findings, the results indicate that, of the eight cysteine residues in the lac permease, only Cys-154 is important for lactose transport. As discussed, the conclusion has important implications for the hypothesis that sulfhydryl—disulfide interconversion plays an important role in the symport mechanism.