Members of the third domain of life, the Archaea, possess structural, physiological, biochemical and genetic features distinct from Bacteria and Eukarya and, therefore, have drawn considerable scientific interest. Physiological, biochemical and molecular analyses have revealed many novel biological processes in these important prokaryotes. However, assessment of the function of genes in vivo through genetic analysis has lagged behind because suitable systems for the creation of mutants in most Archaea were established only in the past decade. Among the Archaea, sufficiently sophisticated genetic systems now exist for some thermophilic sulfur-metabolizing Archaea, halophilic Archaea and methanogenic Archaea. Recently, there have been developments in genetic analysis of thermophilic and methanogenic Archaea and in the use of genetics to study the physiology, metabolism and regulatory mechanisms that direct gene expression in response to changes of environmental conditions in these important microorganisms.