Respiratory complex I has an L-shaped structure formed by the hydrophilic arm responsible for electron transfer and the membrane arm that contains protons pumping machinery. Here, to gain mechanistic insights into the role of subunit NuoL, we investigated the effects of Mg2+, Zn2+ and the Na+/H+ antiporter inhibitor 5-(N-ethyl-N-isopropyl)-amiloride (EIPA) on proton pumping activities of various isolated NuoL mutant complex I after reconstitution into Escherichia coli double knockout (DKO) membrane vesicles lacking complex I and the NADH dehydrogenase type 2. We found that Mg2+ was critical for proton pumping activity of complex I. At 2 µM Zn2+, proton pumping of the wild-type was selectively inhibited without affecting electron transfer; no inhibition in proton pumping of D178N and D400A was observed, suggesting the involvement of these residues in Zn2+ binding. Fifteen micromolar of EIPA caused up to ∼40% decrease in the proton pumping activity of the wild-type, D303A and D400A/E, whereas no significant change was detected in D178N, indicating its possible involvement in the EIPA binding. Furthermore, when menaquinone-rich DKO membranes were used, the proton pumping efficiency in the wild-type was decreased significantly (∼50%) compared with NuoL mutants strongly suggesting that NuoL is involved in the high efficiency pumping mechanism in complex I.