In 55 clinical isolates of Vibrio cholerae biotype El Tor, cholera toxin (CT) production was higher after growth in liquid medium first under relatively anaerobic conditions followed by excessive aeration (AKI conditions) as compared with growth under the optimal conditions for CT production from V. cholerae of classical biotype (median toxin level being 400 ng ml-1 and 1 ng ml-1 respectively, for the two different growth conditions). Large growth volumes further enhanced El Tor toxin production to levels at or above 3-5 micrograms ml-1 from several strains, which allowed for easy purification of toxin by salt precipitation, aluminium hydroxide adsorption and/or GM1 ganglioside affinity chromatography. However, such purified El Tor CT completely lacked the A subunit when examined by SDS-PAGE or by monoclonal anti-A subunit antibody GM1-ELISA. In contrast, when El Tor CT was prepared from bacteria grown in the presence of specific antiserum against soluble haemagglutinin/protease it contained the A subunit (unnicked) in the same proportion to the B subunit (1A:5B) as classical CT. Immunodiffusion-in-gel tests revealed that the B subunits of El Tor and classical CTs share major epitopes but also have one or more weaker biotype-specific epitopes. The two types of toxin were practically indistinguishable in various GM1-ELISA tests, and antisera raised against El Tor and classical CT, respectively, could also completely neutralize the heterologous as well as the homologous toxin activity in vivo. The results indicate that CTs from El Tor and classical V. cholerae, despite demonstrable epitope differences, are predominantly cross-reactive and give rise to antisera with strong cross-neutralizing activity.