Addition of the ionic detergent N-lauroylsarcosine (Sarkosyl) affects the efficiency of transcription of genes of the protozoan Trypanosoma brucei in nuclear run-on assays. Transcription of the PARP (procyclin or procyclic acidic repetitive protein), variant cell surface glycoprotein (VSG) and ribosomal RNA (rRNA) genes was resistant or increased after addition of Sarkosyl. In contrast, the transcription of seven protein coding house keeping genes and the mini-exon donor RNA (medRNA) genes was completely abolished by the addition of Sarkosyl, while the transcription of the 5S rRNA genes showed an intermediate sensitivity. We conclude that Sarkosyl can be used to discriminate between the different types of trypanosome transcription units. The PARP and VSG protein coding genes had previously been postulated to be transcribed by an RNA polymerase I-like enzyme on the basis of their resistance to the RNA polymerase II inhibitor alpha-amanitin. This model is now supported by their resistance to the addition of Sarkosyl.