Expression of the maize mitochondrial T-urf73 gene results in a sensitivity to a family of fungal pathotoxins and to methomyl, a structurally unrelated systemic insecticide. Similar effects of pathotoxins and methomyl are observed when T-urfl3 is cloned and expressed in Escherichia coli. An interaction between these compounds and the membrane-bound URFl3 protein permeabilizes the inner mitochondrial and bacterial plasma membranes. To understand the toxin-URF13 effects, we have investigated whether toxin specifically binds to the URF13 protein. Our studies indicate that toxin binds to the URF13 protein in maize mitochondria and in E. coli expressing URF13. Binding analysis in E. coli reveals cooperative toxin binding. A low leve1 of specific toxin binding is also demonstrated in cms-T and cms-T-restored mitochondria; however, binding does not appear to be cooperative in maize mitochondria. Competition and displacement studies in E. coli demonstrate that toxin binding is reversible and that the toxins and methomyl compete for the same, or for overlapping, binding sites. Two toxin-insensitive URFl3 mutants display a diminished capability to bind toxin in E. coli, which identifies residues of URFl3 important in toxin binding. A third toxin-insensitive URFl3 mutant shows considerable toxin binding in E. coli, demonstrating that toxin binding can occur without causing membrane permeabilization. Our results indicate that toxin-mediated membrane permeabilization only occurs when toxin or methomyl is bound to URFl3.