The factors that control the initiation of eukaryotic DNA replication from defined origins (oris) on the chromosome remain incompletely resolved. Here we show that the circular rDNA episome of the human pathogen Entamoeba histolytica contains multiple potential oris, which are utilized in a differential manner. The primary ori in exponentially growing cells was mapped close to the promoter of rRNA genes in the upstream intergenic spacer (IGS) by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis. Replication initiated predominantly from the upstream IGS and terminated in the downstream IGS. However, when serum-starved cells were allowed to resume growth, the early oris which became activated were located in other parts of the molecule. Later the ori in the upstream IGS became activated, with concomitant silencing of the early oris. When the upstream IGS was located ectopically in an artificial plasmid, it again lost ori activity, while other parts of the rDNA episome could function as oris in this system. Therefore, the activation or silencing of the ori in this episome is context dependent, as is also the case with many eukaryotic replicons. This is the first replication origin to be mapped in this primitive protozoan and will provide an opportunity to define the factors involved in differential ori activity, and their comparison with metazoans.