Using the bifunctional cloning vehicle pHP13, which carries the replication functions of the cryptic Bacillus subtilis plasmid pTA1060, the effects of BsuM restriction on the efficiency of shotgun cloning of heterologous Escherichia coli DNA were studied. In a restriction-deficient but modification-proficient mutant of B. subtilis, clones were obtained at a high frequency, comparable to frequencies normally obtained in E. coli (10(4) clones per microgram target DNA). Large inserts were relatively abundant (26% of the clones contained inserts in the range of 6 to 15 kb), which resulted in a high average insert length (3.6 kb). In the restriction-proficient B. subtilis strain, the class of large inserts was underrepresented. Transformation of B. subtilis with E. coli-derived individual recombinant plasmids was affected by BsuM restriction in two ways. First, the transforming activities of recombinant plasmids carrying inserts larger than 4 kb, were, in comparison with the vector pHP13, reduced to varying degrees in the restricting host. The levels of the reduction increased with insert length, resulting in a 7800-fold reduction for the largest plasmid used (pC23; insert length 16 kb). Second, more than 80% of the pC23 transformants in the restricting strain contained a deleted plasmid. In the non-restricting strain, the transforming activities of the plasmids were fairly constant as a function of insert length (in the range of 0-16 kb), and no structural instability was observed. It is concluded that for shotgun cloning in B. subtilis, the use of restriction-deficient strains is highly preferable. Evidence is presented that in addition to XhoI other sequences are involved in BsuM restriction. It is postulated that AsuII sites are additional target sites for BsuM restriction.