Trypanosoma congolense is one of the most economically important pathogens of livestock in Africa. Culture-derived parasites of each of the three main insect stages of the T. congolense life cycle, i.e., the procyclic, epimastigote and metacyclic stages, and bloodstream stage parasites isolated from infected mice, were used to construct stage-specific cDNA libraries and expressed sequence tags (ESTs or cDNA clones) in each library were sequenced. Thirteen EST clusters encoding different variant surface glycoproteins (VSGs) were detected in the metacyclic library and 26 VSG EST clusters were found in the bloodstream library, 6 of which are shared by the metacyclic library. Rare VSG ESTs are present in the epimastigote library, and none were detected in the procyclic library. ESTs encoding enzymes that catalyze oxidative phosphorylation and amino acid metabolism are about twice as abundant in the procyclic and epimastigote stages as in the metacyclic and bloodstream stages. In contrast, ESTs encoding enzymes involved in glycolysis, the citric acid cycle and nucleotide metabolism are about the same in all four developmental stages. Cysteine proteases, kinases and phosphatases are the most abundant enzyme groups represented by the ESTs. All four libraries contain T. congolense-specific expressed sequences not present in the Trypanosoma brucei and Trypanosoma cruzi genomes. Normalized cDNA libraries were constructed from the metacyclic and bloodstream stages, and found to be further enriched for T. congolense-specific ESTs. Given that cultured T. congolense offers an experimental advantage over other African trypanosome species, these ESTs provide a basis for further investigation of the molecular properties of these four developmental stages, especially the epimastigote and metacyclic stages for which it is difficult to obtain large quantities of organisms. The T. congolense EST databases are available at: http://www.sanger.ac.uk/Projects/T_congolense/EST_index.shtml. The sequence data have been submitted to EMBL under the following accession numbers: FN263376-FN292969.