Major advances have recently been made in understanding the molecular biology of the archaebacteria. The review compares the structure of protein and stable RNA-encoding genes cloned and sequences from each of the major classes of archaebacteria: the methanogens, extreme halophiles, and acid thermophiles. Protein-encoding genes, including some encoding proteins directly involved in methanogenesis and photoautotrophy, are analyzed on the basis of gene organization and structure, transcriptional control signals, codon usage, and evolutionary conservation. Stable RNA-encoding genes are compared for gene organization and structure, transcriptional signals, and processing events involved in RNA maturation, including intron removal. Comparisons of archaebacterial structures and regulatory systems are made with their eubacterial and eukaryotic homologs.