There are previously two known intermediates (I1 and I2) in the room-temperature photocycle of the photoactive yellow protein (PYP) from Ectothiorhodospira halophila. The three-dimensional structures of ground-state PYP and of I2 have shown that light-induced conformational changes are localized to the active site. Previous site-specific mutagenesis studies of PYP in our laboratories have characterized two active site mutants (Glu46Gln and Arg52Ala). We now report the construction and characterization of a mutant at a third active site position (Met100Ala) in order to establish the role of this residue in the photocycle. Met100Ala PYP has an absorption spectrum which is very similar to wild-type (WT) PYP, but exhibits very different kinetic properties. At pH 7.0, the light-induced bleaching reaction (I2 formation) has a half-life <1 microseconds and the recovery in the dark has a half-life of 5.5 min, as compared with half-lives of 100 microseconds and 140 ms for the same reactions in WT PYP. The slow rate of recovery from I2 for Met100Ala results in the accumulation of the bleached intermediate even under room light illumination. These results are qualitatively similar to what has been observed with the Arg52Ala mutant of PYP, and with WT PYP in the presence of alcohols or urea, and suggest that Met100 acts to stabilize the ground state of the protein. The midpoint for guanidine denaturation confirms this. The slow recovery of I2 in the Met100Ala mutant has allowed us to obtain direct evidence that this intermediate species is also photoactive and can be returned to the ground state by a 365 nm laser flash, with kinetics (half-life = 160 microseconds; k = 6300 s-1) which are 6 orders of magnitude faster than dark recovery. This implies that chromophore reisomerization limits the rate of conversion of I2 to the ground state in PYP. Met100 is in van der Waals contact with the chromophore in the I2 state, and we suggest that the sulfur atom catalyzes cis-trans isomerization in WT PYP.