Hemolysis by Serratia marcescens is caused by two proteins, ShlA and ShlB. ShlA is the hemolysin proper, and ShlB transports ShlA through the outer membrane, whereby ShlA is converted into a hemolysin. Superhemolytic ShlA derivatives that displayed 7- to 20-fold higher activities than wild-type ShlA were isolated. ShlA80 carried the single amino acid replacement of G to D at position 326 (G326D), ShlA87 carried S386N, and ShlA80III carried G326D and N236D. Superhemolysis was attributed to the greater stability of the mutant ShlA derivatives because they aggregated less than the wild-type hemolysin, which lost activity within 3 min at 20 degrees C. In contrast to the highly hemolytic wild-type ShlA at 0 degrees C, the hyperlytic hemolysins were nonhemolytic at 0 degrees C, suggesting that the hyperlytic derivatives differed from wild-type ShlA in adsorption to and insertion into the erythrocyte membrane. However, the size of the pores formed at 20 degrees C by superhemolytic hemolysins could not be distinguished from that of wild-type ShlA. In addition to the N-terminal sequence up to residue 238, previously identified to be important for activation and secretion, sites 326 and 386 contribute to hemolysin activity since they are contained in regions that participate in hemolysin inactivation through aggregation.