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Methanococcus aeolicus, Methanococcus maripaludis, and Methanococcus voltae contain similar levels of four enzymes of branched-chain amino acid biosynthesis: acetohydroxy acid synthase, acetohydroxy acid isomeroreductase, dihydroxy acid dehydratase, and transaminase B. Following growth at low partial pressures of H2-CO2, the levels of these enzymes in extracts of M. voltae are reduced three- to fivefold, which suggests that their synthesis is regulated. The enzymes from M. aeolicus were found to be similar to the eubacterial and eucaryotic enzymes with respect to molecular weights, pH optima, kinetic properties, and sensitivities to O2. The acetohydroxy acid isomeroreductase has a specific requirement for Mg2+, and other divalent cations were inhibitory. It was stimulated threefold by K+ and NH4+ ions and was able to utilize NADH as well as NADPH. The partially purified enzyme was not sensitive to O2. The dihydroxy acid dehydratase is extremely sensitive to O2, and it has a half-life under 5% O2 of 6 min at 25 degrees C. Divalent cations were required for activity, and Mg2+, Mn2+, Ni2+, Co2+, and Fe2+ were nearly equally effective. In conclusion, the archaebacterial enzymes are functionally homologous to the eubacterial and eucaryotic enzymes, which implies that this pathway is very ancient.