ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters form the largest class of active membrane transport proteins. Binding and hydrolysis of ATP by their highly conserved nucleotide-binding domains drive conformational changes of the complex that mediate transport of substrate across the membrane. The vitamin B 12 importer BtuCD-F in Escherichia coli is an extensively studied model system. The periplasmic soluble binding protein BtuF binds the ligand; the transmembrane and ATPase domains BtuCD mediate translocation. Here we report the direct observation at the single-molecule level of ATP, vitamin B 12 and BtuF-induced events in the transporter complex embedded in liposomes. Single-molecule fluorescence imaging techniques reveal that membrane-embedded BtuCD forms a stable complex with BtuF, regardless of the presence of ATP and vitamin B 12 . We observe that a vitamin B 12 molecule remains bound to the complex for tens of seconds, during which several ATP hydrolysis cycles can take place, before it is being transported across the membrane.