The pores formed by Bacillus thuringiensis insecticidal toxins have been shown to allow the diffusion of a variety of monovalent cations and anions and neutral solutes. To further characterize their ion selectivity, membrane permeability induced by Cry1Aa and Cry1Ac to amino acids (Asp, Glu, Ser, Leu, His, Lys and Arg) and to divalent cations (Mg(2+), Ca(2+) and Ba(2+)) and anions (SO(4)(2-) and phosphate) was analyzed at pH 7.5 and 10.5 with midgut brush border membrane vesicles isolated from Manduca sexta and an osmotic swelling assay. Shifting pH from 7.5 to 10.5 increases the proportion of the more negatively charged species of amino acids and phosphate ions. All amino acids diffused well across the toxin-induced pores, but, except for aspartate and glutamate, amino acid permeability was lower at the higher pH. In the presence of either toxin, membrane permeability was higher for the chloride salts of divalent cations than for the potassium salts of divalent anions. These results clearly indicate that the pores are cation-selective.