Giardia intestinalis is a flagellated protozoan which causes enteric disease worldwide. Giardia trophozoites infect epithelial cells of the proximal small intestine and can cause acute or chronic diarrhea. The mechanism of epithelial injury in giardiasis remains unknown. A number of enteric pathogens, including protozoan parasites, are able to induce enterocyte apoptosis. The aim of this work was to assess whether G. intestinalis strain WB clone C6 is able to induce apoptosis in the human intestinal epithelial cell line HCT-8, and to investigate the role of caspases in this process. Results demonstrated that the parasite induces cell apoptosis, as confirmed by DNA fragmentation analysis, detection of active caspase-3 and degradation of the caspase-3 substrate PARP [poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase]. Furthermore, G. intestinalis infection induces activation of both the intrinsic and the extrinsic apoptotic pathways, down-regulation of the antiapoptotic protein Bcl-2 and up-regulation of the proapoptotic Bax, suggesting a possible role for caspase-dependent apoptosis in the pathogenesis of giardiasis.