Free-living amoebae of the genus Acanthamoeba are widely distributed in soil and water collections, where trophozoites (vegetative, multiplicative stages) feed mainly by phagocytosis and thus control bacterial populations in the environment. Here, we examined the growth, encystment and survival of Acanthamoeba castellanii receiving different bacteria (Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Enterobacter cloacae, Bacillus subtilis, Bacillus megaterium, Micrococcus luteus, and Staphylococcus aureus) in nonnutrient saline. All bacteria assayed induced a dose-dependent proliferative response, in most cases maximized with a bacterial dose of 1 x 10(9) mL(-1); except for M. luteus, trophozoites grew better with viable than with heat-killed bacteria. In addition, Acanthamoeba growth was improved by adding bacteria on alternate days. Single-dose experiments indicated a temporal association between the growth of trophozoite and bacterial consumption, and higher consumption of M. luteus, E. coli and P. aeruginosa, bacterial species that allowed the highest trophozoite yields. Long-term Acanthamoeba-bacteria incubation revealed that encystment was significantly delayed by almost all the bacteria assayed (including S. aureus, which elicited a poor growth response) and that the presence of bacteria markedly increased cyst yield; final cyst recovery clearly depended on both the dose and the type of the bacterium given, being much higher with E. coli, M. luteus and P. aeruginosa.