The sequences of a number of archaeal genomes have recently been completed, and many more are expected shortly. Consequently, the research of Archaea in general and hyperthermophiles in particular has entered a new phase, with many exciting discoveries to be expected. The wealth of sequence information has already led, and will continue to lead to the identification of many enzymes with unique properties, some of which have potential for industrial applications. Subsequent functional genomics will help reveal fundamental matters such as details concerning the genetic, biochemical and physiological adaptation of extremophiles, and hence give insight into their genomic evolution, polypeptide structure-function relations, and metabolic regulation. In order to optimally exploit many unique features that are now emerging, the development of genetic systems for hyperthermophilic Archaea is an absolute requirement. Such systems would allow the application of this class of Archaea as so-called "cell factories": (i) expression of certain archaeal enzymes for which no suitable conventional (mesophilic bacterial or eukaryal) systems are available, (ii) selection for thermostable variants of potentially interesting enzymes from mesophilic origin, and (iii) the development of in vivo production systems by metabolic engineering. An overview is given of recent insight in the molecular biology of hyperthermophilic Archaea, as well as of a number of promising developments that should result in the generation of suitable genetic systems in the near future.