Paramecium telomeric DNA consists largely of a random distribution of TTGGGG and TTTGGG repeats. Given the precise nature of other ciliate telomerases, it has been postulated that there are two distinct types of the Paramecium enzyme, each synthesizing perfect telomeric repeats: one with a template RNA that specifies the addition of TTTGGG and the second dictating the synthesis of TTGGGG repeats. We have cloned and sequenced telomerase RNA genes from Paramecium tetraurelia, P. primaurelia, P. multimicronucleatum, and P. caudatum. Surprisingly, a single gene encodes telomerase RNA in all four species, although an apparently nontranscribed pseudogene is also present in the genome of P. primaurelia. The overall lengths of the telomerase RNAs range between 202 and 209 nucleotides, and they can be folded into a conserved secondary structure similar to that derived for other ciliate RNAs. All Paramecium telomerase RNAs examined include a template specific for the synthesis of TTGGGG telomeric repeats, which has not been posttranscriptionally edited to account for the conventional synthesis of TTTGGG repeats. On the basis of these results, possible mechanisms for the synthesis of variable telomeric repeats by Paramecium telomerase are discussed.