Giardia lamblia must encyst to survive in the environment and subsequently infect new hosts. We investigated the expression of glucosamine-6-phosphate isomerase (Gln6PI), the first enzyme required for biosynthesis of N-acetylgalactosamine, for the major cyst wall polysaccharide. We isolated two Gln6PI genes that encode proteins with large areas of identity, but distinctive central and terminal regions. Both recombinant enzymes have comparable kinetics. Interestingly, these genes have distinct patterns of expression. Gln6PI-A has a conventional, short 5' untranslated region (UTR), and is expressed at a low level during vegetative growth and encystation. The Gln6PI-B gene has two transcripts - one is expressed constitutively and the second species is highly upregulated during encystation. The non-regulated Gln6PI-B transcript has the longest 5'-UTR known for Giardia and is 5' capped or blocked. In contrast, the Gln6PI-B upregulated transcript has a short, non-capped 5'-UTR. A small promoter region (< 56 bp upstream from the start codon) is sufficient for the regulated expression of Gln6PI-B. Gln6PI-B also has an antisense overlapping transcript that is expressed constitutively. A shorter antisense transcript is detected during encystation. This is the first report of a developmentally regulated promoter in Giardia, as well as evidence for a potential role of 5' RNA processing and antisense RNA in differential gene regulation.