Thirty-five Trypanosoma cruzi strains were isolated from chronic chagasic patients, triatomines and opossums from different municipalities of the State of Rio Grande do Sul. Parasites were characterized by means of mice infectivity, enzyme electrophoresis and randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) analysis. Twenty-nine strains were isolated from chagasic patients, 4 from triatomines (2 from Triatoma infestans and 2 from Panstrongylus megistus) and 2 from opossums Didelphis albiventris. Thirty-three T. cruzi strains were of low and 2 strains of high virulence in mice. Both virulent strains were isolated from P. megistus. Isoenzyme analysis of the strains showed 3 different zymodemes. Eleven strains isolated from chagasic patients and 2 from D. albiventris were Z2. Eighteen strains from patients and 2 from T. infestans were ZB and 2 T. cruzi strains isolated from P. megistus were Z1. RAPD profiles obtained with 4 random primers showed a high genetic heterogeneity of the T. cruzi strains. Zymodeme 2 and ZB strains were the more polymorphic. A band sharing analysis of the RAPD profiles of Z2 and ZB strains using 3 primers, showed a very low percentage of shared bands, 20% among 13 ZB strains and 14% among 13 Z2 strains. According to the isoenzyme results, 3 T. cruzi populations were present in State of Rio Grande do Sul. Zymodeme 2 and ZB strains were found infecting man (domiciliar transmission cycle) whereas Z1 strains were found infecting the sylvatic vector P. megistus.