With the exception of the methanogenic archaea Methanococcus jannaschii and Methanobacterium thermoautotrophicum deltaH, all organisms surveyed contain orthologs of Escherichia coli cysteinyl-tRNA synthetase (CysRS). The characterization of CysRS-encoding (cysS) genes and the demonstration of their ability to complement an E. coli cysSts mutant reveal that Methanococcus maripaludis and Methanosarcina barkeri, two other methanogenic archaea, possess canonical CysRS proteins. A molecular phylogeny inferred from 40 CysRS sequences indicates that the CysRS of M. maripaludis and Methanosarcina spp. are specific relatives of the CysRS of Pyrococcus spp. and Chlamydia, respectively. This result suggests that the CysRS gene was acquired by lateral gene transfer in at least one euryarchaeotic lineage.