We have purified trypsin from the midgut of Manduca sexta and shown it has an alkaline pH optimum of 10.5. In order to clone the midgut trypsin, a DNA probe was generated using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) with template isolated from a midgut cDNA library phage stock, a mixture of degenerate primers synthesized to code for the highly conserved region around the active site serine found in trypsins, and the T7 sequencing primer. Three different trypsin cDNAs were isolated each of which encodes a preproenzyme of 256 amino acids with a putative signal sequence of 17 amino acids, an activation peptide of seven amino acids and a mature trypsin of 232 amino acids. The encoded midgut trypsins contain the highly conserved residues, Asp, His, Ser, involved in catalysis in serine proteases, along with the residues which define the trypsin specificity pocket. Sequence comparisons show that all sequences are similar to other invertebrate and vertebrate serine proteases, but they differ in that two of the three encoded trypsins have an odd number of cysteines. Northern analysis localizes the trypsin mRNA to the middle third of the midgut. A large number of arginines (19, 20 and 21) are encoded by the three cDNAs which may stabilize the trypsin, by remaining protonated, in the alkaline midgut of M. sexta.