To better understand the lipid requirements of Giardia lamblia trophozoites and the mechanisms of lipid uptake, we supplemented serum-free TYI-S-33 medium with lipids incorporated into different lipid carriers. We found that serum lipoproteins, beta-cyclodextrins, and bile salts are able to supply cholesterol and phospholipids to Giardia and to support the multiplication of the parasite in vitro. The growth rates obtained with different lipoproteins or bile salts and lipid mixtures were similar to that in standard culture medium containing serum. Pulse labelling experiments using fluorescent lipid analogs demonstrated that Giardia can take up lipids from lipoproteins, beta-cyclodextrins, or bile salt micelles, but with different kinetics, and that bile salts greatly facilitated lipid transfer from lipoproteins and cyclodextrins to the parasite surface. The binding of different radioiodinated lipoprotein classes to the trophozoite surface, inhibition of lipoprotein interiorization at 4 degrees C or by cytochalasin D, and incorporation studies using fluorescent LDL suggested that a small component of lipid uptake by trophozoites was likely due to endocytosis of lipoproteins.