The interaction between calmodulin and its target protein is a key step in many calcium-regulated cellular functions. Melittin binds tightly to calmodulin in the presence of calcium and is a competitive inhibitor of calmodulin function. Using melittin as a model for the target peptide of calmodulin, we have found a large Ca2+-dependent conformational change of calmodulin in solution induced by peptide binding. Mg2+ does not substitute for Ca2+ in producing the conformation change. Small-angle x-ray scattering has shown that calmodulin exists as a dumbbell in solution, similar to that observed in the crystalline state. Our present measurements reveal that the overall structure of the Ca2+-calmodulin-melittin complex is not a dumbbell but a globular shape. Upon binding melittin, the radius of gyration decreases from 20.9 to 18.0 A and the largest dimension decreases from 60 to 47.5 A. In the absence of calcium, however, melittin has little effect on the solution structure of calmodulin.