Cells die through a programmed process or accidental death, know as apoptosis or necrosis, respectively. Bothrops jararaca
is a snake whose venom inhibits the growth of Trypanosoma cruzi
epimastigote forms causing mitochondrion swelling and cell death. The aim of the present work was to determine the type of death induced in epimastigotes of T. cruzi
by this venom. Parasite growth was inhibited after venom treatment, and 50% growth inhibition was obtained with 10 μg/ml. Ultrastructural observations confirmed mitochondrion swelling and kinetoplast disorganization. Furthermore, cytoplasmic condensation, loss of mitochondrion membrane potential, time-dependent increase in phosphatidylserine exposure at the outer leaflet plasma membrane followed by permeabilization, activation of caspase like protein and DNA fragmentation were observed in epimastigotes throughout a 24 h period of venom treatment. Taken together, these results indicate that the stress induced in epimastigote by this venom, triggers a programmed cell death process, similar to metazoan apoptosis, which leads to parasite death.