The Plasmodium falciparum virulence factor PfEMP1 is responsible for both antigenic variation and cytoadherence of infected erythrocytes in malaria. Approximately 50 var genes per parasite genome code for this highly polymorphic surface protein. We showed recently that chromosome-central and subtelomeric var genes are controlled by different promoters. Here, we report that transcriptional repression of var genes located in different chromosomal regions occurs by different mechanisms. Subtelomeric var gene transcription is repressed 4-8 h before that of chromosome-central var genes. Both repression events coincide with the shifted expression of two distinct nuclear proteins binding specifically to conserved sequence motifs, SPE1 and CPE, present in the respective promoter. Furthermore, a reiterated and highly conserved subtelomeric var promoter element (SPE2) interacts with a nuclear factor exclusively expressed during S-phase. Promoter analysis by transient transfection suggested direct involvement of these interactions in var gene repression and silencing, and identified regions implicated in transcriptional activation of var genes.