Current studies of hyperthermophilic archaea and bacteria, the phylogenetically deepest-rooted and slowest-evolving extant organisms known, are allowing new insights into the nature of presumably ancient metabolic pathways. The apparent common occurrence of modified non-phosphorylated Entner-Doudoroff (ED) pathways among saccharolytic archaea and the absence of the conventional Embden-Meyerhof-Parnas (EMP) mode of glycolysis indicate that the ED pathway is the older route of carbohydrate dissimilation. However, gluconeogenesis via the "reversed" EMP route has been found in archaea. Thus, the EMP pathway was probably an anabolic pathway to begin with; its catabolic role came later, with the evolution of fructose phosphate kinases, using ATP, ADP or pyrophosphate as phosphate donors. Similarly, the presence of reductive reactions of the citric acid cycle in anaerobic archaea and the most deeply rooted bacteria, including autotrophs, indicates that the citric acid cycle was originally a reductive biosynthetic pathway.