The stimulation of normal human PBMC by Trypanosoma cruzi Ag was analyzed. PBMC showed significant in vitro proliferation in response to parasite lysate (Tct), with stimulation indices ranging from 10 to 400, peaking at 6 to 7 days. The cells stimulated with Tct produced significant levels of IL-2. To determine which cells proliferated in response to Tct, PBMC were separated into T- and B-enriched cell populations. Purified T cells, but not B cells, proliferated strongly to Tct. The T cell response required APC and was processing dependent. T cell lines generated against Tct proliferated in response to parasite lysate only in the presence of autologous APC and produced IL-2, IL-6, and IFN-gamma but not IL-4 in response to PMA plus ionomycin. Although there were a significant number of CD45Ra+ cells, the majority of the cells in these T cell lines were CD45Ro+. The V beta usage of Tct-responding T cells was heterogeneous, with most V beta genes represented among the responding cells. An immunodominant repeat Ag (TcD) and a ribosomal phosphoprotein (P0) of T. cruzi elicited strong proliferative responses in all subjects tested. These data indicate the presence of T cell-stimulatory Ag in Tct, characterized by nonpreferential usage of the V beta gene families. The strong stimulation of normal human PBMC by Tct may contribute to immunologic alterations seen in T. cruzi infection.