Tetanus and botulinum neurotoxins are di-chain proteins that cause paralysis by inhibiting neuroexocytosis. These neurotoxins enter into nerve terminals via endocytosis inside synaptic vesicles, whose acidic pH induces a structural change of the neurotoxin molecule that becomes capable of translocating its L chain into the cytosol, via a transmembrane protein-conducting channel made by the H chain. This is the least understood step of the intoxication process primarily because it takes place inside vesicles within the cytosol. In the present study, we describe how this passage was made accessible to investigation by making it to occur at the surface of neurons. The neurotoxin, bound to the plasma membrane in the cold, was exposed to a warm low pH extracellular medium and the entry of the L chain was monitored by measuring its specific metalloprotease activity with a ratiometric method. We found that the neurotoxin has to be bound to the membrane via at least two anchorage sites in order for a productive low-pH induced structural change to take place. In addition, this process can only occur if the single inter-chain disulfide bond is intact. The pH dependence of the conformational change of tetanus neurotoxin and botulinum neurotoxin B, C and D is similar and take places in the same slightly acidic range, which comprises that present inside synaptic vesicles. Based on these and previous findings, we propose a stepwise sequence of molecular events that lead from toxin binding to membrane insertion.