Two new oligonucleotide probes targeting the 16S rRNA of the methanogenic genus Methanosarcina were developed. The probes have the following sequences (Escherichia coli numbering): probe SARCI551, 5'-GAC CCAATAATCACGATCAC-3', and probe SARCI645, 5'-TCCCGGTTCCAAGTCTGGC-3'. In situ hybridization with the fluorescently labelled probes required several modifications of standard procedures. Cells of Methanosarcina mazeii S-6 were found to lyse during the hybridization step if fixed in 3% formaldehyde and stored in 50% ethanol. Lysis was, however, not observed with cells fixed and stored in 1.6% formaldehyde-0.85% NaCl. Extensive autofluorescence of the cells was found upon hybridization in the presence of 5 mM EDTA, but successful hybridization could be obtained without addition of this compound. The mounting agent Citifluor AF1, often used in conjugation with the fluorochrome fluorescein, was found to wash the labelled probes out of the cells. Stable labelling could be obtained with rhodamine-labelled probes when the specimen was mounted in immersion oil, and high hybridization intensities of the Methanosarcina cells were found even in the presence of biomass from an anaerobic reactor. The inherent high autofluorescence of the biomass could be lowered by use of a highly specific narrow-band filter. The probes were found to be specific for Methanosarcina and useful for detection of this genus in samples from anaerobic reactors.