Although a large number of potentially secreted proteins can be predicted on the basis of genomic distribution of signal sequence-bearing proteins, protein secretion in Archaea has barely been studied. A proteomic inventory and comparison of the growth medium proteins in three hyperthermoacidophiles, i.e., Sulfolobus solfataricus, S. acidocaldarius and S. tokodaii, indicates that only few proteins are freely secreted into the growth medium and that the majority originates from cell envelope bound forms. In S. acidocaldarius both cell-associated and secreted alpha-amylase activities are detected. Inactivation of the amyA gene resulted in a complete loss of activity, suggesting that the same protein is responsible for the a-amylase activity at both locations. It is concluded that protein secretion in Sulfolobus is a limited process, and it is suggested that the S-layer may act as a barrier for the free diffusion of folded proteins into the medium.