We have cloned and characterized a 5.2 kb fragment of genomic Halobacterium cutirubrum DNA encoding two potential proteins of unknown function (ORF and NAB) and four proteins which are equivalent to the L11, L1, L10 and L12 ribosomal proteins of Escherichia coli (L11e, L1e, L10e and L12e). The ribosomal protein genes are clustered in the same order as that in E. coli although the transcription pattern differs. Transcripts characterized include (i) abundant monocistronic L11e and tricistronic L1e-L10e-L12e transcripts; (ii) less abundant bicistronic NAB-L11e and monocistronic NAB transcripts and (iii) a very rare ORF monocistronic transcript. The consensus sequence in the promoter region is TTCGA ... 4-10 nucleotides ... TTAA ... 25-26 nucleotides ... initiation site; termination generally occurs on poly(T) tracts following GC-rich regions. Poly(T) tracts in the sense strands within coding regions are notably absent; this is probably related to their participation in transcription termination and to the fact that these ribosomal protein genes are highly expressed and stoichiometrically balanced. In the third position of the codons G or C is utilized 87% of the time. The 74 nt long untranslated leader of the L1e-L10e-L12e transcript contains a region that has a sequence and structure almost identical to a region within the binding domain for the L1e protein in 23S rRNA and highly similar to the E. coli L11-L1 mRNA leader sequence that has been implicated in autogenous translational regulation. Other transcripts are initiated at or adjacent to the ATG translation initiation codon.