The variant cell surface glycoprotein (VSG) gene expression sites of the protozoan Trypanosoma brucei are transcribed by an unusual alpha-amanitin resistant RNA polymerase. All other protein coding genes of T.brucei examined to date are transcribed by an alpha-amanitin sensitive RNA polymerase, presumably RNA polymerase II. We now show that transcription of protein coding genes by alpha-amanitin resistant RNA polymerases is not unique to the bloodstream form expressed VSG gene expression sites, but also occurs in insect form trypanosomes, which do not express VSG genes. In insect form trypanosomes transcription of the procyclin or PARP genes is resistant to alpha-amanitin to a degree comparable with that of VSG and ribosomal RNA (rRNA) genes. Comparison of the alpha-amanitin resistantly transcribed PARP and VSG gene families shows that they both produce one of the most abundant mRNAs [1-3% of poly(A)+] and they both encode the major cell surface proteins of their respective life cycle stages. Transcription of a subset of functionally comparable protein coding genes is thus mediated by an RNA polymerase which differs from the regular RNA polymerase II.