We present the molecular karyotype of the megabase chromosomes of Trypanosoma brucei stock 427, clone 221a. This cloned stock is most commonly used in research laboratories in genetic manipulation experiments and in studies of antigenic variation. Using 116 previously characterised chromosome-specific markers, we identify 11 diploid pairs of megabase chromosomes and detect no loss of synteny in EST and gene marker distribution between this stock and the genome project reference stock TREU 927/4. Nevertheless, the chromosomes of 427 are all larger than their homologues in 927, except chromosomes IIa and IXa. The greatest size variation is seen in chromosome I, the smallest of which is 1.1 Mb (927-Ia) and the largest 3.6 Mb (427-Ib). The total nuclear DNA content of both stocks has been estimated by comparison of the mobility of T. brucei and yeast chromosomes. Trypanosomes of stock 427 contain approximately 16.5 Mb more megabase chromosomal DNA than those of stock 927. We have detected the presence of bloodstream-form expression-site-associated sequences on eight or more megabase chromosomes. These sequences are not found on the same chromosomes in each stock. We have determined the chromosomal band location of nine characterised variant surface glycoprotein genes, including the currently expressed VSG 221. Our results demonstrate both the stability of the T. brucei genome, as illustrated by the conservation of syntenic groups of genes in the two stocks, and the polymorphic nature of the genomic regions involved in antigenic variation. We propose that the chromosomes of stock 427 be numbered to correspond to their homologues in the genome project reference stock TREU 927/4. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.