Representatives of the family Methanosarcinaceae were analyzed phylogenetically by comparing partial sequences of their methyl-coenzyme M reductase (mcrI) genes. A 490-bp fragment from the A subunit of the gene was selected, amplified by the PCR, cloned, and sequenced for each of 25 strains belonging to the Methanosarcinaceae. The sequences obtained were aligned with the corresponding portions of five previously published sequences, and all of the sequences were compared to determine phylogenetic distances by Fitch distance matrix methods. We prepared analogous trees based on 16S rRNA sequences; these trees corresponded closely to the mcrI trees, although the mcrI sequences of pairs of organisms had 3.01 +/- 0.541 times more changes than the respective pairs of 16S rRNA sequences, suggesting that the mcrI fragment evolved about three times more rapidly than the 16S rRNA gene. The qualitative similarity of the mcrI and 16S rRNA trees suggests that transfer of genetic information between dissimilar organisms has not significantly affected these sequences, although we found inconsistencies between some mcrI distances that we measured and and previously published DNA reassociation data. It is unlikely that multiple mcrI isogenes were present in the organisms that we examined, because we found no major discrepancies in multiple determinations of mcrI sequences from the same organism. Our primers for the PCR also match analogous sites in the previously published mcrII sequences, but all of the sequences that we obtained from members of the Methanosarcinaceae were more closely related to mcrI sequences than to mcrII sequences, suggesting that members of the Methanosarcinaceae do not have distinct mcrII genes.