The variant surface glycoprotein (VSG) and procyclin are the major surface proteins of the bloodstream and procyclic stages, respectively, of Trypanosoma brucei. The promoter regions of the VSG and procyclin gene transcription units could be mapped thanks to the specific enrichment of initial transcripts that occurs following UV irradiation. Whereas the VSG gene is 45 kb distant from its promoter, procyclin genes are located immediately downstream. We show, by run-on assays on isolated nuclei and by cDNA analysis, that transcription occurs from both promoters in bloodstream as well as in procyclic forms. It is inferred that the control of the stage-specific expression of VSG and procyclin genes is not effected at the level of transcription initiation, but most probably by interfering with the elongation and stability of the specific transcripts.