We have examined the initial events in phagocytosis by Acanthamoeba castellanii in order to understand this process at the molecular level and have determined that phagocytosis in this organism is mediated by a receptor which recognizes mannose-rich elements in the particle to be phagocytosed. We demonstrate that the binding and internalization of yeast particles can be inhibited by the sugars (D(+)-mannose and D(-)-fructose in a stereospecific, concentration-dependent manner. This inhibition is specific; these sugars did not inhibit the uptake of latex beads by this organism. Using mannosylated neoglycoproteins, which are much more potent inhibitors of particle binding as compared with the free sugar, we demonstrate the presence of a receptor on the amoeba cell surface which is necessary for the binding of yeast as the initial event of phagocytosis. The Acanthamoeba mannose receptor also appears to be able to mediate the delivery of soluble mannose-rich molecules to a degradative compartment such as the lysosome. Knowledge of this receptor will allow a better understanding of the molecular events of phagocytosis.