Methansarcina mazei Gö1 DNA arrays were constructed and used to evaluate the genomic expression patterns of cells grown on either of two alternative methanogenic substrates, acetate or methanol, as sole carbon and energy source. Analysis of differential transcription across the genome revealed two functionally grouped sets of genes that parallel the central biochemical pathways in, and reflect many known features of, acetate and methanol metabolism. These include the acetate-induced genes encoding acetate activating enzymes, acetyl-CoA synthase/CO dehydrogenase, and carbonic anhydrase. Interestingly, additional genes expressed at significantly higher levels during growth on acetate included two energy-conserving complexes (the Ech hydrogenase, and the A1A0-type ATP synthase). Many previously unknown features included the induction by acetate of genes coding for ferredoxins and flavoproteins, an aldehyde:ferredoxin oxidoreductase, enzymes for the synthesis of aromatic amino acids, and components of iron, cobalt and oligopeptide uptake systems. In contrast, methanol-grown cells exhibited elevated expression of genes assigned to the methylotrophic pathway of methanogenesis. Expression of genes for components of the translation apparatus was also elevated in cells grown in the methanol medium relative to acetate, and was correlated with the faster growth rate observed on the former substrate. These experiments provide the first comprehensive insight into substrate-dependent gene expression in a methanogenic archaeon. This genome-wide approach, coupled with the complementary molecular and biochemical tools, should greatly accelerate the exploration of Methanosarcina cell physiology, given the present modest level of our knowledge of these large archaeal genomes.