Chitinases are vital to moulting in insects, and may also affect gut physiology through their involvement in peritrophic membrane turnover. A cDNA encoding chitinase was cloned from larvae of tomato moth (Lacanobia oleracea), a Lepidopteran pest of crops. The predicted protein contains 553 amino acid residues, with a signal peptide of 20 a.a. Sequence comparison showed 75-80% identity with other Lepidopteran chitinases. L. oleracea chitinase was produced as a functional recombinant enzyme in the yeast Pichia pastoris. A fusion protein containing chitinase joined to the N-terminus of snowdrop lectin (GNA) was also produced, to determine whether GNA could deliver chitinase to the haemolymph of Lepidopteran larvae after oral ingestion. The purified recombinant proteins exhibited similar levels of chitinase activity in vitro. Both proteins were highly toxic to L. oleracea larvae on injection, causing 100% mortality at low dose (2.5 microg/g insect). Injection of chitinase prior to the moult resulted in decreased cuticle thickness. The recombinant proteins caused chronic effects when fed, causing reductions in larval growth and food consumption by up to 60%. The oral toxicity of chitinase was not increased by attaching GNA in the fusion protein, due to degradation in the larval gut, preventing GNA acting as a "carrier".