Telomeres are specialized DNA-protein complexes that stabilize chromosome ends, protecting them from nucleolytic degradation and illegitimate recombination. Telomeres form a heterochromatic structure that can suppress the transcription of adjacent genes. Telomeres may have additional roles in Trypanosoma brucei, as the major surface antigens of this parasite are expressed during its infectious stages from subtelomeric loci. We propose that telomere protein complexes of trypanosomes and vertebrates are conserved and offer the hypothesis that growth and breakage of telomeric repeats plays an important role in regulating parasite antigenic variation.