The crystal proteins, or section sign-endotoxins, of Bacillus thuringiensis are specifically lethal to Lepidopteran insects. We utilized a truncated and modified portion of a cloned crystal protein gene to construct a chimeric gene capable of expression in plant cells. Using an Agrobacterium tumefaciens binary vector system, we then transferred the chimeric toxin gene into tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum cv Havana 425) cells and regenerated recombinant plants. One to several copies per cell of the toxin gene are routinely present in the recombinant plants. Hybridization experiments demonstrated that these plants had a new RNA species of the size expected for the truncated toxin mRNA, and a polypeptide having the mobility expected for the truncated toxin was detected by immunoblotting. Significant variation was found in the levels of toxin-specific RNA expression between different recombinants, but the levels of hybridizing RNA in transformants correlated with the level of toxicity demonstrated against Manduca sexta (tobacco hornworm), and other Lepidopteran insects. The recombinant genes were transmitted to progeny and resistance to insects was maintained, thus demonstrating that the introduction of toxin genes into plants may be a practical method of providing protection against certain insect pests.