In Methanosarcina barkeri, methanogenesis from methanol is initiated by the formation of methylcoenzyme M from methanol and coenzyme M. This methyl transfer reaction is catalyzed by two enzymes, designated MT1 and MT2. Transferase MT1 is a corrinoid protein. The purification, catalytic properties and encoding genes of MT2 (MtaA) have been described previously [Harms, U. and Thauer, R.K. (1996) Eur. J. Biochem. 235, 653-659]. We report here on the corresponding analysis of MT1. The corrinoid protein MT1 was purified to apparent homogeneity and showed a specific activity of 750 mumol min-1 mg-1. The enzyme catalyzed the methylation of its bound corrinoid in the cob(I)amide oxidation state by methanol. In addition to this automethylation, the purified enzyme was found to catalyze the methylation of free cob(I)alamin to methylcob(III)alamin. It was composed of two different subunits designated MtaB and MtaC, with apparent molecular masses of 49 kDa and 24 kDa, respectively. The subunit MtaC was shown to harbour the corrinoid prosthetic group. The genes mtaB and mtaC were cloned and sequenced. They were found to be juxtapositioned and to form a transcription unit mtaCB. The corrinoid-harbouring subunit MtaC exhibits 35% sequence similarity to the cobalamin-binding domain of methionine synthase from Escherichia coli.