Inability to culture the disease-producing amastigote form of Leishmania has greatly hampered its study. We have biochemically characterized an axenically cultured amastigote-like form of Leishmania pifanoi. This form closely resembles amastigotes in proteinase, ribonuclease, adenine deaminase and peroxidase activity. It also exhibits comparable rates of growth, transformation, synthesis of DNA, RNA and protein, and metabolism of glucose and linoleic acid. It is distinct from promastigotes in these characteristics. The expression of the genes for beta-tubulin and the P100/11E reductase is developmentally regulated in this axenic form as in amastigotes. These results, combined with previous demonstrations of amastigote morphology and antigenicity in the culture form, confirm that Leishmania amastigotes have been successfully propagated in axenic media. This strain should serve as an excellent model for the study of amastigote biochemistry, pharmacology and immunology, and the molecular genetics of the transformation between amastigote and promastigote forms.