Acanthamoeba is a widely distributed opportunistic parasite which causes a vision-threatening keratitis and a life-threatening encephalitis. The cyst stage of this amoeba is especially resistant to currently used therapeutics and so alternative agents are urgently required. Growing evidence supports the existence of a programmed cell death system (PCD) in Acanthamoeba and while some features are shared by higher eukaryote cells, others differ. It is hoped that by understanding these differences we can exploit them as targets for novel drug intervention to activate PCD pathways in the amoebae but not the invaded human tissue. Here, we use the aminoglycoside G418 to activate PCD in Acanthamoeba. This drug caused a shape change in the treated amoebae. Cells rounded up and contracted, and after 6 h fragments of cells resembling the 'apoptotic bodies' of vertebrate cells were observed. G418 causes an increase in intracellular calcium from a resting level of 24 nM to 60 nM after 6 h of treatment. Mitochondrial function as assayed by the ΔΨm reporting dye JC-1 and CTC a redox dye becomes inhibited during treatment and we have found that cytochrome c is released from the mitochondria. Cells stained with Hoechst showed first an alteration in chromatin structure and then a vesiculation of the nucleus with G418 treatment, although we found no obvious breakdown in genomic DNA in the early stages of PCD.