Two extremely thermophilic archaebacteria, strains OG-1 and SM-2, were isolated from newly discovered deep-sea hydrothermal vent areas in the western Pacific ocean. These strains were cocci, obligately anaerobic Archaea about 0.7-2 microm in diameter. Optimum growth conditions for OG-1 and SM-2 were at 85-90 degrees C (range 60-100 degrees C), pH 6 (range pH 4-8), a NaCl concentration of 3% (range 1-5%), and a nutrient concentration (tryptone plus yeast extract) of 0.2% (range 0.005-5%). Elemental sulfur stimulated the growth rate fourfold. Ammonium slightly stimulated growth. Both tryptone and yeast extract allowed growth as sole carbon sources; these isolates were not able to utilize or grow exclusively on sucrose, glucose, maltose, succinate, pyruvate, propionate, acetate, or free amino acids. OG-1 showed the fastest growth rate within the genus Thermococcus. Growth was inhibited by rifampicin. The DNA G+C content was 52 mol%. Sequencing of their 16S rDNA gene fragment indicated that these isolates belonged to the genus Thermococcus. OG-1 and SM-2 were different than the described Thermococcus species. We propose that OG-1 belongs to a new species: Thermococcus peptonophilus.