In Bacteria and Archaea (formerly Archaebacteria) ribosomal protein L1 has a dual function, as a primary rRNA-binding protein and as a translational repressor which binds to its own mRNA. The L1-binding site on the mRNA exhibits high similarity in both sequence and secondary structure to the binding site for L1 on the 23 S rRNA. A sensitive membrane-filter-binding assay has been used to examine the interactions between ribosomal L1 proteins from different archaeal and bacterial species, and 23S rRNA and mRNA fragments from Methanococcus vannielii containing the MvaL1-binding site. Under standard conditions (0 degrees C, pH 7.5, 20 mM Mg2+, 500 mM KCl), the apparent dissociation constant Kd of the homologous MvaL1-23S rRNA complex is 5 nM, the apparent dissociation constant Kd of the MvaL1-mRNA complex is 0.15 degrees M. L1 proteins from Escherichia coli (EcoL1) and from the thermophilic Bacterium Thermus thermophilus (TthL1), and from the thermophilic Archaea Methanococcus thermolithotrophicus (MthL1), Methanococcus jannaschii (MjaL1), and Sulfolobus solfataricus (SsoL1) were tested for their affinity to the specific L1-binding sites on the 23 S rRNA and mRNA. In general, the affinity of L1 proteins from thermophilic species to the binding sites on both 23 S rRNA and mRNA is about one order of magnitude higher than that of their mesophilic counterparts. This stronger protein-RNA interaction might make a substantial contribution to the thermal tolerance of ribosomes in thermophilic organisms.