Two commercially important strains (NRD-12 and HD-1) of the entomopathogenic bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki each contain three genes of partially identical sequence coding for three classes of 130-135 kDa protoxins (termed the 4.5, 5.3 and 6.6 protoxins) that display toxicity towards various lepidopteran larvae. These gene products combine to form the intracellular bipyramidal P1 crystal. Each of the genes from both strains was cloned and expressed in Escherichia coli. Analysis of the cloned genes at the restriction-endonuclease level revealed no detectable differences among genes within a particular gene class. The composition of the P1 crystal from both strains was quantitatively analysed by CNBr cleavage of the purified P1 crystal, with the purified recombinant gene products as reference proteins. Independent verification of the presence of high 6.6-protoxin gene product in the P1 crystal was provided by a rapid in vitro lawn cell toxicity assay directed against a Choristoneura fumiferana (CF-1) insect cell line. The results indicate that, although all three gene products are represented within the P1 crystal of either NRD-12 or HD-1, only the contents of the 4.5 and 5.3 protoxins vary between the two crystals, whereas the 6.6 protoxin contents are similar and represent approximately one-third of the P1 crystal in either strain.

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