Cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) channel opening and closing are driven by cycles of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) binding-induced formation and hydrolysis-triggered disruption of a heterodimer of its cytoplasmic nucleotide-binding domains (NBDs). Although both composite sites enclosed within the heterodimer interface contain ATP in an open CFTR channel, ATP hydrolysis in the sole catalytically competent site causes channel closure. Opening of the NBD interface at that site then allows ADP-ATP exchange. But how frequently, and how far, the NBD surfaces separate at the other, inactive composite site remains unclear. We assessed separation at each composite site by monitoring access of nucleotide-sized hydrophilic, thiol-specific methanothiosulfonate (MTS) reagents to interfacial target cysteines introduced into either LSGGQ-like ATP-binding cassette signature sequence (replacing equivalent conserved serines: S549 and S1347). Covalent MTS-dependent modification of either cysteine while channels were kept closed by the absence of ATP impaired subsequent opening upon ATP readdition. Modification while channels were opening and closing in the presence of ATP caused macroscopic CFTR current to decline at the same speed as when the unmodified channels shut upon sudden ATP withdrawal. These results suggest that the target cysteines can be modified only in closed channels; that after modification the attached MTS adduct interferes with ATP-mediated opening; and that modification in the presence of ATP occurs rapidly once channels close, before they can reopen. This interpretation was corroborated by the finding that, for either cysteine target, the addition of the hydrolysis-impairing mutation K1250R (catalytic site Walker A Lys) similarly slowed, by an order of magnitude, channel closing on ATP removal and the speed of modification by MTS reagent in ATP. We conclude that, in every CFTR channel gating cycle, the NBD dimer interface separates simultaneously at both composite sites sufficiently to allow MTS reagents to access both signature-sequence serines. Relatively rapid modification of S1347C channels by larger reagents-MTS-glucose, MTS-biotin, and MTS-rhodamine-demonstrates that, at the noncatalytic composite site, this separation must exceed 8 Å.