The general properties of the heat shock response of the archaebacterium Methanococcus voltae were characterized. The induction of 11 heat shock proteins, with apparent molecular weights ranging from 18,000 to 90,000, occurred optimally at 40 to 50 degrees C. Some of the heat shock proteins were preferentially enriched in either the soluble (cytoplasm) or particulate (membrane) fraction. Alternative stresses (ethanol, hydrogen peroxide, NaCl) stimulated the synthesis of subsets of the heat shock proteins as well as unique proteins. Western blot (immunoblot) analysis, in which antisera to Escherichia coli heat shock proteins (DnaK and GroEL) were used, did not detect any immunologically cross-reactive proteins. In addition, Southern blot analysis did not reveal any homology between M. voltae and four highly conserved heat shock genes, mopB and dnaK from E. coli and hsp70 genes from Drosophila species and Saccharomyces cerevisiae.