Unraveling the intricate interactions between Trypanosoma brucei, the protozoan parasite causing African trypanosomiasis, and the tsetse (Glossina) vector remains a challenge. Metacyclic trypanosomes, which inhabit the tsetse salivary glands, transmit the disease and are produced through a complex differentiation and unknown program. By overexpressing a single RNA-binding protein, TbRBP6, in cultured non-infectious trypanosomes, we recapitulated the developmental stages that have been observed in tsetse, including the generation of infective metacyclic forms expressing the variant surface glycoprotein. Thus, events leading to acquisition of infectivity in the insect vector are now accessible to laboratory investigation, providing an opening for new intervention strategies.