Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense can be induced to undergo apoptosis after stimulation with Con A. As cell death in these parasites is associated with de novo gene expression we have applied a differential display technique, Randomly Amplified Differential Expressed Sequence-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RADES-PCR) to the study of gene expression during Con A induced cell death in these organisms. Twenty-two differentially displayed products have been cloned and sequenced. These represent the first endogenous genes to be identified as implicated in cellular death in trypanosomatids (the most primitive eukaryote in which apoptosis has been described). Evidence for an ancestral death machinery, 'proto-apoptosis' in single celled organisms is discussed.