In Escherichia coli, SecA is a large, multifunctional protein that is a vital component of the general protein secretion pathway. In its membrane-bound form it functions as the motor component of the protein translocase, perhaps through successive rounds of membrane insertion and ATP hydrolysis. To understand both the energy conversion process and translocase assembly, we have used contrast-matched, small-angle neutron-scattering (SANS) experiments to examine SecA in small unilamellar vesicles of E.coli phospholipids. In the absence of nucleotide, we observe a dimeric form of SecA with a radius of gyration comparable to that previously observed for SecA in solution. In contrast, the presence of either ADP or a non-hydrolyzable ATP analog induces conversion to a monomeric form. The larger radius of gyration for the ATP-bound relative to the ADP-bound form suggests the former has a more expanded global conformation. This is the first direct structural determination of SecA in a lipid bilayer. The SANS data indicate that nucleotide turnover can function as a switch of conformation of SecA in the membrane in a manner consistent with its proposed role in successive cycles of deep membrane penetration and release with concommitant preprotein insertion.