Little is known about the relation between the genome organization and gene expression in Leishmania. Bioinformatic analysis can be used to predict genes and find homologies with known proteins. A model was proposed, in which genes are organized into large clusters and transcribed from only one strand, in the form of large polycistronic primary transcripts. To verify the validity of this model, we studied gene expression at the transcriptional, post-transcriptional and translational levels in a unique locus of 34kb located on chr27 and represented by cosmid L979. Sequence analysis revealed 115 ORFs on either DNA strand. Using computer programs developed for Leishmania genes, only nine of these ORFs, localized on the same strand, were predicted to code for proteins, some of which show homologies with known proteins. Additionally, one pseudogene, was identified. We verified the biological relevance of these predictions. mRNAs from nine predicted genes and proteins from seven were detected. Nuclear run-on analyses confirmed that the top strand is transcribed by RNA polymerase II and suggested that there is no polymerase entry site. Low levels of transcription were detected in regions of the bottom strand and stable transcripts were identified for four ORFs on this strand not predicted to be protein-coding. In conclusion, the transcriptional organization of the Leishmania genome is complex, raising the possibility that computer predictions may not be comprehensive. © 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.