Liposomes can be used as vehicles for intracellular delivery of drugs into phagocytic cells. Clodronate and propamidine, delivered into macrophages in this way, will kill these cells as a result of intracellular accumulation and irreversible metabolic damage. The so-called liposome-mediated macrophage 'suicide' approach, which is based on this principle, is now frequently applied in studies aimed at unravelling macrophage function. In the present study, the mechanism of phagocytic cell death induced by liposome encapsulated drugs was investigated 'in vitro'. Peritoneal macrophages and macrophages of the RAW 264 cell line were cultured in the presence of the liposome encapsulated drugs clodronate, propamidine and several forms of ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA). The results obtained suggest that apoptotic death is induced in phagocytic cells both by liposomally delivered clodronate and by liposomally delivered propamidine. Although intracellular EDTA did induce apoptosis in a minority of the experiments, the results support earlier findings that EDTA does not deplete macrophages as effectively as clodronate and propamidine.