sRNAs (small non-coding RNAs) representing important players in many cellular and regulatory processes have been identified in all three domains of life. In Eukarya and Bacteria, functions have been assigned for many sRNAs, whereas the sRNA populations in Archaea are considerably less well characterized. Recent analyses on a genome-wide scale particularly using high-throughput sequencing techniques demonstrated the presence of high numbers of sRNA candidates in several archaea. However, elucidation of the molecular mechanism of sRNA action, as well as understanding their physiological roles, is in general still challenging, particularly in Archaea, since efficient genetic tools are missing. The identification of cellular targets of identified archaeal sRNAs by experimental approaches or computational prediction programs has begun only recently. At present, targets have been identified for one archaeal sRNA, sRNA162 in Methanosarcina mazei, which interacts with the 5′ region of its targets, a cis-encoded and a trans-encoded target, blurring the paradigm of a border between cis- and trans-encoded sRNAs. Besides, the first experimental implications have been obtained in Haloarchaea and Pyrobaculum that archaeal sRNAs also target 3′ regions of mRNAs. The present review summarizes our current knowledge on archaeal sRNAs and their biological functions and targets.

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