Membranes of Methanopyrus microbes avoid melting in high heat because they are made up of waxy chemicals instead of ordinary fats.

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"But hyperthermophiles still have waxy membranes, consist of proteins, and their genes are made of DNA; how do they manage to thrive in such heat? Well, as far as their membranes are concerned, there are no ordinary fats that do not melt at 90 to 110° [note: temperatures are in C], and these organisms prove to have instead special waxy chemicals which are not true fats: they have higher melting points. (Digression for those who know organic chemistry: their fat materials (lipids) are not esters but ethers.) Their proteins, too, prove to be naturally more heat-resistant than most, and there is evidence that some are permanently stabilised by chaperonins, others by newly-discovered substances that are not proteins, such as a compound of glycerol and phosphate which is plentiful in the record-breaking Methanopyrus. The problem of how such organisms manage their DNA is still unsolved, because their DNA is much like that of other living things: when extracted it unravels in the 65 to 75° range." (Postgate 1994:15)

The Outer Reaches of LifeCambridge University Press.March 25, 1994
John R. Postgate

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