The dissolution and degradation of †-endotoxin (crystal) of Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki strain HD-1 were investigated. Crystals were dissolved in 0.1 M phosphate-carbonate-NaOH buffer at pH > 12. Swelling of crystals occurred in the buffer between pH 10 and 11, and crystals dissolved in the same buffer supplemented with gut juice protease of the silkworm Bombyx mori. The proteolytic dissolution of crystals occurred after a time lag of several minutes in 0.1 M carbonate-NaOH buffer, pH 10.2. The time lag was not observed when crystals were suspended in the buffer for 30 min before the addition of protease. After the dissolution of the crystals and further degradation of the solubilized protein, the appearance of a toxic protein with a molecular weight of 59,000, designated P-59, was observed. Lower-molecular-weight peptides (less than 40,000) showed no toxicity to the silkworm larvae on feeding. Digestion of the 120,000-dalton subunit of the crystal by gut juice protease also produced P-59. These observations suggest the occurrence of a similar process in vivo, i.e., the swelling of crystals due to the alkalinity of gut juice and the production of P-59, dependent on the hydrolysis of swollen crystals by gut juice protease
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