Pyrococcus furiosus is a strictly anaerobic archaeon (archaebacterium) that grows at temperatures up to 105 degrees C by fermenting carbohydrates and peptides. Cell extracts have been previously shown to contain an unusual acetyl coenzyme A (acetyl-CoA) synthetase (ACS) which catalyzes the formation of acetate and ATP from acetyl-CoA by using ADP and phosphate rather than AMP and PPi. We show here that P. furiosus contains two distinct isoenzymes of ACS, and both have been purified. One, termed ACS I, uses acetyl-CoA and isobutyryl-CoA but not indoleacetyl-CoA or phenylacetyl-CoA as substrates, while the other, ACS II, utilizes all four CoA derivatives. Succinyl-CoA did not serve as a substrate for either enzyme. ACS I and ACS II have similar molecular masses (approximately 140 kDa), and both appear to be heterotetramers (alpha2beta2) of two different subunits of 45 (alpha) and 23 (beta) kDa. They lack metal ions such as Fe2+, Cu2+, Zn2+, and Mg2+ and are stable to oxygen. At 25 degrees C, both enzymes were virtually inactive and exhibited optimal activities above 90 degrees C (at pH 8.0) and at pH 9.0 (at 80 degrees C). The times required to lose 50% of their activity at 80 degrees C were about 18 h for ACS I and 8 h for ACS II. With both enzymes in the acid formation reactions, ADP and phosphate could be replaced by GDP and phosphate but not by CDP and phosphate or by AMP and PPi. The apparent Km values for ADP, GDP, and phosphate were approximately 150, 132, and 396 microM, respectively, for ACS I (using acetyl-CoA) and 61, 236, and 580 microM, respectively, for ACS II (using indoleacetyl-CoA). With ADP and phosphate as substrates, the apparent Km values for acetyl-CoA and isobutyryl-CoA were 25 and 29 microM, respectively, for ACS I and 26 and 12 microM, respectively, for ACS II. With ACS II, the apparent Km value for phenylacetyl-CoA was 4 microM. Both enzymes also catalyzed the reverse reaction, the ATP-dependent formation of the CoA derivatives of acetate (I and II), isobutyrate (I and II), phenylacetate (II only), and indoleacetate (II only). The N-terminal amino acid sequences of the two subunits of ACS I were similar to those of ACS II and to that of a hypothetical 67-kDa protein from Escherichia coli but showed no similarity to mesophilic ACS-type enzymes. To our knowledge, ACS I and II are the first ATP-utilizing enzymes to be purified from a hyperthermophile, and ACS II is the first enzyme of the ACS type to utilize aromatic CoA derivatives.