The vacuolar H+-translocating ATPase (H+-ATPase), originally reported to consist of three major subunits, has been further purified from oat roots (Avena sativa var Lang) to determine the complete subunit composition. Triton-solubilized ATPase activity was purified by gel filtration on Sephacryl S400 and ion-exchange chromatography (Q-Sepharose). ATP hydrolysis activity of purified preparations was inhibited by 100 nanomolar bafilomycin A1, a specific vacuolar-type ATPase inhibitor. The purified oat H+ATPase (relative molecular weight = 650,000) was composed of polypeptides of 70, 60, 44, 42, 36, 32, 29, 16, 13, and 12 kilodaltons. To analyze the organization of the H+-ATPase subunits, native vacuolar membranes were treated with Kl and MgATP to dissociate peripheral proteins. Release of 70, 60, 44, 42, 36, and 29 kilodalton polypeptides from the membrane was accompanied by a loss of ATP hydrolysis and ATP-dependent H+-pumping activities. Five of the peripheral subunits were released from the membrane as a large complex of 540 kilodaltons. Vesicles that had lost the peripheral sector of the ATPase could hold a pH gradient generated by the proton-translocating pyrophosphatase, suggesting that the integral sector of the ATPase did not form a H+-conducting pathway. Negative staining of native vesicles revealed knob-like structures of 10 to 12 nanometers in dense patches on the surface of vacuolar membranes. These structures were removed by MgATP and Kl, which suggested that they were the peripheral sectors of the H+-ATPase. These results demonstrate that the vacuolar H+-ATPase from oat roots has 10 different subunits. The oat vacuolar ATPase is organized as a large peripheral sector and an integral sector with a subunit composition similar, although not identical to, other eukaryotic vacuolar ATPases. Variations in subunit composition observed among several ATPases support the idea that distinct types of vacuolar H+-ATPases exist in plants.