In order to improve culture media and to discover potential drug targets, uptake of an acidic, a basic, and an aromatic amino acid were investigated. Current culture systems, axenic or co-cultivation with mammalian cells, do not provide either the quantity or quality of cells needed for biochemical studies of this organism. Insight into nutrient acquisition can be expected to lead to improved culture media and improved culture growth. Aspartic acid uptake was directly related to substrate concentration, Q(10) was 1.10 at pH 7.4. Hence the organism acquired this acidic amino acid by simple diffusion. Uptake of the basic amino acid arginine and the aromatic amino acid tyrosine exhibited saturation kinetics consistent with carrier-mediated mechanisms. Kinetic parameters indicated two carriers (K(m)=22.8+/-2.5 microM and K(m)=3.6+/-0.3 mM) for arginine and a single carrier for tyrosine (K(m)=284+/-23 microM). The effects of other L-amino acids showed that the tyrosine carrier was distinct from the arginine carriers. Tyrosine and arginine transport were independent of sodium and potassium ions, and did not appear to require energy from ATP or a proton motive force. Thus facilitated diffusion was identified as the mechanism of uptake. After 30 min of incubation, these amino acids were incorporated into total lipids and the sedimentable material following lipid extraction; more than 90% was in the cellular soluble fraction.