The parasite Entamoeba histolytica is named for its ability to lyse host tissues. To determine the factors responsible, we have initiated an examination of the contribution of parasite virulence factors and host caspases to cellular destruction by the parasite. Amoebic colitis in C3H/HeJ mice was associated with extensive host apoptosis at sites of E. histolytica invasion. In vitro studies of E. histolytica–Jurkat T-cell interactions demonstrated that apoptosis required contact via the amoebic Gal/GalNAc lectin, but was unaffected by 75% inhibition of the amoebic cysteine proteinases. Parasite-induced DNA fragmentation was unaffected in caspase 8-deficient Jurkat cells treated with the caspase 9 inhibitor Ac-LEHD-fmk. In contrast, caspase 3-like activity was observed within minutes of E. histolytica contact and the caspase 3 inhibitor Ac-DEVD-CHO blocked Jurkat T cell death, as measured by both DNA fragmentation and 51Cr release. These data demonstrate rapid parasite-induced activation of caspase 3-like caspases, independent of the upstream caspases 8 and 9, which is required for host cell death.