A novel base, beta-D-glucosyl-hydroxymethyluracil or J for short, was recently discovered in DNA of bloodstream form Trypanosoma brucei. The base is predominantly found in the hexameric repeat arrays of chromosome telomeres and in adjacent repetitive sub-telomeric DNA, and it is made by modification of specific thymines in DNA. J is present in inactive telomeric variant surface glycoprotein (VSG) genes, but not in active ones, suggesting a link between the presence of J and repression of the telomeric expression sites for VSG genes. The presence of J in DNA is specific for bloodstream form trypanosomes, as J is absent in insect form (procyclic) T. brucei. In addition to African trypanosomes, J has been found in DNA from other Kinetoplastida that do not undergo antigenic variation, such as Leishmania and Crithidia. The biological function of J remains to be deciphered.