An abundant 11-kDa membrane protein was purified from African trypanosomes by organic solvent extraction and octyl-Sepharose chromatography. This protein cross-reacts with monoclonal antibodies originally generated against the lipophosphoglycan-associated protein of Leishmania donovani. Immunoblot analysis showed that the 11-kDa molecule was present in a variety of species of kinetoplastids. It was found in several species and subspecies of African trypanosomes and was present in low amounts in bloodstream forms and in larger amounts in procyclic, epimastigote and metacyclic life cycle stages. Expression of the 11-kDa molecule rapidly increased during transformation from bloodstream forms to procyclic forms, paralleling expression of the major surface glycoprotein of Trypanosoma congolense, the glutamic acid/alanine-rich protein, an analogue of T. brucei procyclin. The molecule was present in procyclic trypanosome membranes at approximately 2 x 10(5)-1 x 10(6) molecules per cell, suggesting it may have an important role in parasite membrane organization and function. Amino-acid analysis of the trypanosome 11-kDa protein showed it had a different composition than that of its leishmania counterpart. Its wide distribution in kinetoplastids and its membrane disposition suggest a name for this class of molecules: kinetoplastid membrane protein-11 (KMP-11).