The hyperthermophilic crenarchaeon Aeropyrum pernix contains phosphoglucose isomerase (PGI) activity. However, obvious homologs with significant identity to known PGIs could not be identified in the sequenced genome of this organism. The PGI activity from A. pernix was purified and characterized. Kinetic analysis revealed that, unlike all known PGIs, the enzyme catalyzed reversible isomerization not only of glucose 6-phosphate but also of epimeric mannose 6-phosphate at similar catalytic efficiency, thus defining the protein as bifunctional phosphoglucose/phosphomannose isomerase (PGI/PMI). The gene pgi/pmi encoding PGI/PMI (open reading frame APE0768) was identified by matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization time-of-flight analyses; the gene was overexpressed in Escherichia coli as functional PGI/PMI. Putative PGI/PMI homologs were identified in several (hyper)thermophilic archaea and two bacteria. The homolog from Thermoplasma acidophilum (Ta1419) was overexpressed in E. coli, and the recombinant enzyme was characterized as bifunctional PGI/PMI. PGI/PMIs showed low sequence identity to the PGI superfamily and formed a distinct phylogenetic cluster. However, secondary structure predictions and the presence of several conserved amino acids potentially involved in catalysis indicate some structural and functional similarity to the PGI superfamily. Thus, we propose that bifunctional PGI/PMI constitutes a novel protein family within the PGI superfamily.