Abstract Leishmania spp. and the related kinetoplastid Trypanosoma brucei are single-celled parasites. In Leishmania, the nuclear genome comprises 36 diploid chromosomes and occasional amplified minichromosomes, while the T. brucei nucleus contains 11 larger diploid chromosomes and a variable number of intermediate-sized and minichromosomes. This paper primarily describes the subtelomeric structure of the larger diploid chromosomes of L. major and T. brucei, although some aspects may also apply to smaller chromosomes. The diploid chromosomes contain most protein-coding genes and vary in size. The telomeric sequence is common to both species, but adjacent subtelomeric repeats vary between species and chromosomes. It is possible that some of the complex repeats described here play a role in stabilizing replication and copy number of the chromosomes. The subtelomeric regions of T. brucei chromosomes differ from those of other protozoan parasites, as they are dedicated to expression sites for variant surface glycoprotein genes, used by the parasite to evade immune destruction by antigenic variation. Variation in these sites creates segmental aneuploidy in many T. brucei chromosomes.