The SecA protein is a major component of the cellular machinery that mediates the translocation of proteins across the Escherichia coli plasma membrane. The secA gene from Bacillus subtilis was cloned and expressed in E. coli under the control of the lac or trc promoter. The temperature-sensitive growth and secretion defects of various E. coli secA mutants were complemented by the B. subtilis SecA protein, provided the protein was expressed at moderate levels. Under overproduction conditions, no complementation was observed. One of the main features of the SecA protein is the translocation ATPase activity which, together with the protonmotive force, drives the movement of proteins across the plasma membrane. A putative ATP-binding motif can be identified in the SecA protein resembling the consensus Walker A type motif. Replacement of a lysine residue at position 106, which corresponds to an invariable amino acid residue, in the consensus motif by asparagine (K106N) resulted in the loss of the ability of the B. subtilis SecA protein to complement the growth and secretion defects of E. coli secA mutants. In addition, the presence of the K106N SecA protein interfered with protein translocation, most likely at an ATP-requiring step. We conclude that lysine 106 is part of the catalytic ATP-binding site of the B. subtilis SecA protein, which is required for protein translocation in vivo.