Thin layer chromatographic, and laser-confocal microscopic analyses with a monoclonal antibody to digoxin also displaying high affinity to digoxigenin, were used to determine the presence and localization of cardioactive glycosides. Tetrahymena pyriformis was found to possess digitoxigenin-like material, but digoxin, digitoxin, digoxigenin, gitoxin and lanatoside C were not detected. Digitoxin treatment elicited the appearance of a digoxin-like material in the progeny generations. Digoxin was taken up by untreated Tetrahymena, especially strongly 24h after digitoxin treatment. While the cardenolide was localized in vesicles of the cell body in untreated Tetrahymena, the engulfed digoxin appeared in the epiplasmic layer and also in the cilia after digitoxin pretreatment. Digoxin pretreatment did not increase digoxin uptake. These data indicate that Tetrahymena has: (1) the capacity to discriminate between closely related molecules; (2) the ability to induce digoxin-like material production; and/or (3) enzymes that can effect a digitoxin—digoxin transformation.