We have identified telomerase activity in extracts of three evolutionarily diverse kinetoplastid species: Trypanosoma brucei, Leishmania major, and Leishmania tarentolae. Telomerase activity was initially detected in extracts from insect form cells of all three kinetoplastid species by using a modification of the one-tube telomere repeat amplification protocol [Kim, N., et al. (1994) Science 266, 2011-2015], although better results were subsequently achieved with the two-tube telomere repeat amplification protocol [Autexier, C., Pruzan, R., Funk, W. & Greider, C. (1996) EMBO J. 15, 5928-5935]. The activity in T. brucei extracts was sufficiently robust to enable its detection in a direct assay of telomerase; enzyme processivity was found to be relatively low. The in vitro properties of telomerase suggest a possible templating domain sequence for the telomerase RNA of T. brucei. Telomerase activity is likely to contribute to telomere maintenance in these parasitic organisms and provides a new target for chemotherapeutic intervention.