Representative autotrophic and thermophilic archaeal species of different families of Crenarchaeota were examined for key enzymes of the known autotrophic CO(2) fixation pathways. Pyrobaculum islandicum ( Thermoproteaceae) contained key enzymes of the reductive citric acid cycle. This finding is consistent with the operation of this pathway in the related Thermoproteus neutrophilus. Pyrodictium abyssi and Pyrodictium occultum ( Pyrodictiaceae) contained ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase, which was active in boiling water. Yet, phosphoribulokinase activity was not detectable. Operation of the Calvin cycle remains to be demonstrated. Ignicoccus islandicus and Ignicoccus pacificus ( Desulfurococcaceae) contained pyruvate oxidoreductase as potential carboxylating enzyme, but apparently lacked key enzymes of known pathways; their mode of autotrophic CO(2) fixation is at issue. Metallosphaera sedula, Acidianus ambivalens and Sulfolobus sp. strain VE6 ( Sulfolobaceae) contained key enzymes of a 3-hydroxypropionate cycle. This finding is in line with the demonstration of acetyl-coenzyme A (CoA) and propionyl-CoA carboxylase activities in the related Acidianus brierleyi and Sulfolobus metallicus. Enzymes of central carbon metabolism in Metallosphaera sedula were studied in more detail. Enzyme activities of the 3-hydroxypropionate cycle were strongly up-regulated during autotrophic growth, supporting their role in CO(2) fixation. However, formation of acetyl-CoA from succinyl-CoA could not be demonstrated, suggesting a modified pathway of acetyl-CoA regeneration. We conclude that Crenarchaeota exhibit a mosaic of three or possibly four autotrophic pathways. The distribution of the pathways so far correlates with the 16S-rRNA-based taxa of the Crenarchaeota.