Galactosamine, a Giardia filamentous cyst wall specific-sugar, is below the limits of detection in non-encysting trophozoites. Radiolabeling studies suggest that Giardia synthesize galactosamine primarily from endogenous glucose rather than salvage it from the environment. Enzymes responsible for galactosamine synthesis from glucose are induced during encystment and have been characterized in crude homogenates and in supernatant (soluble) fractions. These enzymes (specific activity; time after encystment is induced for maximal activity; x-fold increase) include glucosamine 6-phosphate isomerase (in the deaminating direction, 167 mU mg protein-1; 20 h; x 182-fold; in the aminating direction, 258 mU mg protein-1; 20 h; x 13-fold), glucosamine 6-phosphate N-acetylase (11 mU mg protein-1; 20 h; x 20-fold), phosphoacetylglucosamine mutase (160 mU mg protein-1; 20 h; x 12-fold), UDP-N-acetylglucosamine pyrophosphorylase (22 mU mg protein-1; 48 h; x 8-fold), and UDP-N-acetylglucosamine 4'-epimerase (13 mU mg protein-1; 48 h; x 4000-fold). This represents the first report of these enzymes and of an inducible carbohydrate-synthesizing pathway in any protozoan.