Site-directed spin labeling was used to determine the membrane orientation and insertion of the C2A domain from synaptotagmin I. A series of single cysteine mutants of the C2A domain of synaptotagmin I was prepared and labeled with a sulfhydryl specific spin label. Upon Ca2+ or membrane binding, the EPR line shapes of these mutants reveal dramatic decreases in label mobility within the Ca2+-binding loops. This loss in mobility is likely due in part to a reduction in local backbone fluctuations within the loop regions. Power saturation was then used to determine the position of each spin-labeled site along the bilayer normal, and these EPR distance constraints were used along with the high-resolution solution structure of C2A to generate a model for the orientation and position of the domain at the membrane interface. This model places the polypeptide backbone of both the first and third Ca2+-binding loops in contact with the membrane interface, with several labeled side chains lying within the bilayer interior. All three Ca2+-binding sites lie near a plane defined by the lipid phosphates. This model indicates that there is some desolvation of this domain upon binding and that hydrophobic as well as electrostatic interactions contribute to the binding of C2A. When compared to the C2 domain from cPLA2 (Frazier et al. (2002) Biochemistry 41, 6282), a similar orientation for the β-sandwich region is found; however, the cPLA2 C2 domain is translocated 5-7 Å deeper into the membrane hydrocarbon. This difference in depth is consistent with previous biophysical data and with the difference that long-range electrostatic interactions and desolvation are expected to make to the binding of these two C2 domains.