The classification of methanogenic bacteria as archaebacteria based on 16 s rRNA sequence analysis is currently in dispute. To provide an alternative molecular marker, the polymerase chain reaction technique was used to amplify a 930 bp fragment of Methanococcus thermolithotrophicus genomic DNA corresponding to the catalytic domain of the membrane H+ -ATPase. The deduced amino acid sequence was 54-58% identical to the ~ 70 kDa subunits of Sulfolobus acidocaldarius and the eukaryotic vacuolar-type H+-A T P ase, and only 29% identical to the beta subunit of the eubacterial-type F0F1-ATPases. Interestingly, a highly conserved aspartate residue in the phosphorylation domain of E 1 E 2-A TPases (P-type) is conserved in the Methanococcus sequence, but is absent from all other known vacuolar and F0F1-ATPases. This suggests that the H+-ATPase of M. thermolithotrophicus, like that of M. voltae, may have a phosphorylated intermediate, despite belonging to the vacuolar-type class of proton pumps. Phylogenetic analysis using Felsenstein’s maximum likelihood method and Lake’s evolutionary parsimony method confirmed that the H+- ATPases of the two archaebacteria, Methanococcus and Sulfolobus, when compared to eukaryotic vacuolar-type ATPases and eubacterial F0F1-ATPases, form a monophyletic group.