Four methods of transforming cercariae to schistosomulae in vitro in ELAC buffer (pH 7.2, 37 C, 0-6 hr incubation) were compared in relation to biochemical and ultrastructural characteristics. The transformation methods used were chemical (3 mM linoleate), mechanical (centrifuge/vortex), mechanical/chemical, and heat (incubation at 37 C). Ultrastructural characteristics examined were based on the presence or absence of glycocalyx, heptalaminate membrane, cyton granules, and nuclear condition. Two EM fixation methods were used. Biochemical parameters assayed were loss of water tolerance (uptake of trypan blue dye), eicosanoid biosynthesis (PGE, LTB4, and 5-HETE), protein synthesis (leucine uptake), RNA synthesis (uracil and orotic acid uptake), and DNA synthesis (thymidine uptake). EM characteristics were remarkably similar for all transformation methods except heat incubation, with transformed cercariae evidencing the characteristics of schistosomulae (cyton granule migration, absence of glycocalyx and heptalaminate membrane); however, euchromatic nuclei could not be demonstrated using in vivo or in vitro transformation methods. Despite the ultrastructural similarities between transformation methods, biochemical data demonstrated that the resultant organisms were quite different. The chemical transformation method gave the highest rate of loss of water tolerance and eicosanoid production. RNA and protein synthesis were not correlated to ultrastructural changes and were highest in those organisms undergoing mechanical transformation methods, significantly higher than in those cercariae transformed by the chemical method. DNA synthesis was not demonstrated using any transformation method, although thymidine uptake did occur. Our data indicate substantial biochemical differences exist between morphologically similar organisms. Thus, experiments using any type of artificially transformed schistosomule must be interpreted with caution until additional biochemical and physiological studies on cercarial transformation are undertaken.