The gene encoding alpha-toxin from Staphylococcus aureus was cloned into a Bacillus subtilis expression vector (pEF 231/alpha-Tox). The protease-deficient B. subtilis strain DB 104 transformed with pEF 231/alpha-Tox expressed and secreted 5 mg of alpha-toxin per liter into the growth medium. The alpha-toxin-containing supernatant was diluted 200-fold and used as coating antigen in an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for serodiagnosis of septicemia and endocarditis caused by S. aureus. Paired sera from patients in acute and convalescent stages of S. aureus and non-S. aureus infections were used to evaluate this ELISA. To evaluate the effectiveness of the crude preparation, the results were compared with those of an ELISA based on a commercially available alpha-toxin. Similar rises in serum titers were obtained with either type of alpha-toxin preparation. This is the first time a crude supernatant without any further purification has been used as an ELISA coating antigen. We therefore conclude that B. subtilis is a suitable host organism for cheap and simple production of prokaryotic recombinant antigens to be used in serodiagnosis.