We sequenced and compared the telomeric regions of linear rDNAs from vegetative macronuclei of several ciliates in the suborder Tetrahymenina. All telomeres consisted of tandemly repeated C4A2 sequences, including the 5' telomere of the 11 kb rDNA from developing macronuclei of Tetrahymena thermophila. Our sequence of the 11 kb 5' telomeric region shows that each one of a previously described pair of inverted repeats flanking the micronuclear rDNA (Yao et al., Mol. Cell. Biol. 5: 1260-1267, 1985) is 29 bp away from the positions to which telomeric C4A2 repeats are joined to the ends of excised 11 kb rDNA. In general we found that the macronuclear rDNA sequences adjacent to C4A2 repeats are not highly conserved. However, in the non-palindromic rDNA of Glaucoma, we identified a single copy of a conserved sequence, repeated in inverted orientation in Tetrahymena spp., which all form palindromic rDNAs. We propose that this sequence is required for a step in rDNA excision common to both Tetrahymena and Glaucoma.