Cinemicrography of Entamoeba histolytica destruction of Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells shows that ameba cytopathogenicity consists of separate components: a contact-dependent cytolethal effect, and phagocytosis. Cells not in contact with amebae remain intact. Quantitation of ameba destruction of CHO cells by applying the one-hit hypothesis confirms that the cytoethal effect of amebae is contact dependent. Studies with 111Indium oxine-labeled cells provide further evidence of extracellular killing by E. histolytica and indicate that > 94% of the target cells are killed before phagocytosis. When we examined for a cytotoxin release by E. histolytica, we found no effect on CHO cells with filtrates of amebae, and a nonspecific effect of cell rounding and release with sonicates of amebae. The ameba sonicate effect was time-dose dependent, was not cytolethal, was reversible, and was inhibited by alpha II macroglobulin. Cytochalasin B altered ameba motility and morphology, and monolayer experiments confirmed that cytochalasins A, B, or D inhibited CHO cell destruction by E. histolytica. Cytochalasin D also inhibited extracellular killing of CHO cells by amebae in pellets, apparently independent of effects on ameba motility or phagocytosis. Colchicine and vinblastine, alone or in combination with cytochalasin D, did not inhibit E. histolytica cytopathogenicity, which indicates that microtubule function is not required for target cell killing by amebae.