Two archaeal proteins, RadA and RadB, share similarity with the RecA/Rad51 family of recombinases, with RadA being the functional homologue. We have studied and compared the RadA and RadB proteins of mesophilic and thermophilic Archaea. In growing cells, RadA levels are similar in mesophilic Methanococcus species and the hyperthermophile Methanococcus jannaschii. Treatment of cells with mutagenic agents (methylmethane sulfonate or UV light) increased the expression of RadA (as evidenced by higher levels of both mRNA and protein) in all organisms tested, but the increase was greater in the mesophiles than in the thermophiles M. jannaschii and Sulfolobus solfataricus. Recombinantly expressed RadA proteins from the mesophile M. voltae and the thermophile M. jannaschii were similar in their ATPase- and DNA-binding activities. All the data are consistent with proposals that RadA plays the same role as eukaryotic Rad51. Surprisingly, the data also suggested that the thermophiles do not need more RadA protein or activity than the mesophiles. On the other hand, RadB is not coregulated with RadA, and its role remains unclear. Neither RadA nor RadB from a mesophile or from a thermophile rescued the UV-sensitive phenotype of an Escherichia coli recA- host.