The lipid and carbohydrate metabolism of Giardia lamblia was studied using trophozoites isolated from a human and axenically grown in vitro in medium containing fetal bovine serum. The phospholipid, fatty acid and neutral lipid composition of the G. lamblia trophozoites was similar to that of the medium. Phosphatidylethanolamine, phosphatidylcholine and sphingomyelin were the major phospholipids detected; monoacyl-, diacyl-, triacylglycerides, sterols, and sterol esters were the major neutral lipids found. Several unidentified glycolipids were also detected. Glucose and threonine were readily incorporated by the trophozoites, but not into cellular phospholipids or sterols. However, approximately 86% of the glucose incorporated into the trophozoites was found in the nucleic acids, and 38% of the threonine incorporated was detected in the cellular proteins. Small amounts of the glucose and threonine were incorporated into glycolipid-containing fractions. Glycerol and acetate were not appreciably incorporated into trophozoites while glycerol 3-phosphate incorporation was not detected. Cholesterol was readily assimilated by the trophozoites; 98% of the incorporated was found in the sterol fraction. Radiorespirometric data suggest that the major routes of glucose metabolism in G. lamblia are via Embden- Meyerhof-Parnas and pentose phosphate pathways. However, endogenous acetate (as acetyl-CoA) formed during the metabolism of glucose is not used for lipid biosynthesis. These findings suggest that G. lamblia trophozoites are incapable of synthesizing cellular phospholipids or sterols de novo, but rather, utilize lipids already present in the medium.