Neonatal mice (CR:NIH:S) were infected with a cloned human isolate of Giardia lamblia (GS/M-83-H7) and the surface antigens of the intestinal trophozoites, as well as the cellular and humoral immune responses, were analysed during the course of infection. Infections in mice peaked 2-3 weeks after inoculation and were self-cured by day 42 post-infection (p.i.). The proportion of trophozoites expressing the Mr 72,000 surface antigen of the initial inoculum had decreased by day 12 and approached zero by day 22 p.i., similar to infections in humans. The predominant parasite-specific humoral response was an IgM- and IgG-isotype directed to the original Mr 72,000 surface antigen as well as other antigens. T-lymphocytes (predominantly LY4(CD4)+) isolated from Peyer's patches 12 days p.i. and later showed a significant proliferative response to Giardia lamblia antigens. Spleen and lymph node cells showed no lymphoproliferative response. T-cell blot analysis revealed the presence of dominant T-cell epitopes in the areas of Mr 200,000-75,000 and less than 50,000 polypeptides. No response was demonstrated in the Mr 72,000 region (migration site of the major surface antigen), suggesting T-cell dependent mechanisms are most likely not responsible for the surface antigen switch which occurred during the course of infection. This model infection can be used to study the role of immunological mechanisms in Giardia lamblia variant antigen switching and in the control of infections.