The two archaea Ignicoccus hospitalis and Nanoarchaeum equitans form a unique intimate association, the character of which is not yet fully understood. Electron microscopic investigations show that at least two modes of cell–cell interactions exist: (i) the two cells are interconnected via thin fibres; and (ii) the two cell surfaces are in direct contact with each other. In order to shed further light on the molecules involved, we isolated a protein complex, by using detergent-induced solubilization of cell envelopes, followed by a combination of chromatography steps. Analysis by MS and comparison with databases revealed that this fraction contained two dominant proteins, representing the respective major envelope proteins of the two archaea. In addition, a considerable set of membrane proteins is specifically associated with these proteins. They are now the focus of further biochemical and ultrastructural investigations.

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