Archaea are major contributors to biogeochemical cycles, possess unique metabolic capabilities, and resist extreme stress. To regulate the expression of genes encoding these unique programs, archaeal cells use gene regulatory networks (GRNs) composed of transcription factor proteins and their target genes. Recent developments in genetics, genomics, and computational methods used with archaeal model organisms have enabled the mapping and prediction of global GRN structures. Experimental tests of these predictions have revealed the dynamical function of GRNs in response to environmental variation. Here, we review recent progress made in this area, from investigating the mechanisms of transcriptional regulation of individual genes to small-scale subnetworks and genome-wide global networks. At each level, archaeal GRNs consist of a hybrid of bacterial, eukaryotic, and uniquely archaeal mechanisms. We discuss this theme from the perspective of the role of individual transcription factors in genome-wide regulation, how these proteins interact to compile GRN topological structures, and how these topologies lead to emergent, high-level GRN functions. We conclude by discussing how systems biology approaches are a fruitful avenue for addressing remaining challenges, such as discovering gene function and the evolution of GRNs.


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