In Caenorhabditis elegans, oscillations of intestinal pH contribute to the rhythmic defecation behavior, but the acid-base transport mechanisms that facilitate proton movement are not well understood. Here, we demonstrate that VHA-6, an intestine-specific a-subunit of the H(+)-K(+)-ATPase complex (V-ATPase), resides in the apical membrane of the intestinal epithelial cells and is required for luminal acidification. Disruption of the vha-6 gene led to early developmental arrest; the arrest phenotype could be complemented by expression of a fluorescently labeled vha-6 transgene. To study the contribution of vha-6 to pH homeostasis in larval worms, we used a partial reduction of function through postembryonic single-generation RNA interference. We demonstrate that the inability to fully acidify the intestinal lumen coincides with a defect in pH recovery of the intestinal epithelial cells, suggesting that VHA-6 is essential for proton pumping following defecation. Moreover, intestinal dipeptide accumulation and fat storage are compromised by the loss of VHA-6, suggesting that luminal acidification promotes nutrient uptake in worms, as well as in mammals. Since acidified intracellular vesicles and autofluorescent storage granules are indistinguishable between the vha-6 mutant and controls, it is likely that the nutrient-restricted phenotype is due to a loss of plasma membrane V-ATPase activity specifically. These data establish a simple genetic model for proton pump-driven acidification. Since defecation occurs at 45-s intervals in worms, this model represents an opportunity to study acute regulation of V-ATPase activity on a short time scale and may be useful in the study of alternative treatments for acid-peptic disorders.