Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version

October 1994


Published in APPLIED AND ENVIRONMENTAL MICROBIOLOGY, Oct. 1994, p. 3847-3853. Copyright 1994, American Society for Microbiology. Used by permission.


We compared two insecticidal and eight noninsecticidal soil isolates of Bacillus thuringiensis with regard to the solubility of their proteinaceous crystals at alkaline pH values. The protein disulfide contents of the insecticidal and noninsecticidal crystals were equivalent. However, six of the noninsecticidal crystals were soluble only at pH values of ≥12. This lack of solubility contributed to their lack of toxicity. One crystal type which was soluble only at pH ≥12 (strain SHP 1-12) did exhibit significant toxicity to tobacco hornworm larvae when the crystals were presolubilized. In contrast, freshly prepared crystals from the highly insecticidal strain HD-1 were solubilized at pH 9.5 to 10.5, but when these crystals were denatured, by either 8 M urea or autoclave temperatures, they became nontoxic and were soluble only at pH values of ≥12. These changes in toxicity and solubility occurred even though the denatured HD-1 crystals were morphologically indistinguishable from native crystals. Our data are consistent with the view that insecticidal crystals contain distorted, destabilized disulfide bonds which allow them to be solubilized at pH values (9.5 to 10.5) characteristic of lepidopteran and dipteran larval midguts.

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