The gene for ribosomal protein MvaL1 from the arachaebacterium Methanococcus vannielii was cloned and characterized. It is clustered together with the genes for MvaL10 and MvaL12, thus is organized in the same order as in E.coli and other archaebacteria. Unexpectedly, analysis of the sequence in front of the MvaL1 gene revealed an ORF of unknown identity, whereas in E.coli, Halobacterium and Sulfolobus solfataricus the gene for the L11 equivalent protein is located in this position. Northern blot analysis revealed a single tricistronic transcript encoding proteins MvaL1, MvaL10 and MvaL12. The 5'-end of the MvaL1-L10-L12 transcript contains a region that has a sequence and structure almost identical to a region on the 23S rRNA which is the putative binding domain for MvaL1, and is highly similar to the E.coli L11-L1 mRNA leader sequence that has been implicated in autogenous translational regulation. Amino acid sequence comparison revealed that MvaL1 shares 30.5% identity with ribosomal protein L1 from E.coli and 41.5% and 33.3% identity with the L1-equivalent proteins from the archaebacteria H.cutirubrum and S.solfataricus respectively.