SMC complexes play a central role in chromosome organization in all domains of life. The bacterial Smc-ScpAB complex is a three-subunit complex composed of Smc, ScpA and ScpB. ScpA bridges the two ATPase domains of the Smc homodimer, while ScpB, which belongs to the kite family of proteins, interacts with ScpA. The three subunits are known to be equally important for the function of Smc-ScpAB in bacteria. From crystallographic and biochemical studies, evidence is provided that six archaeal ScpA proteins are unable to interact with the only putative ScpB found in these species. Structure-based sequence alignment reveals that these archaeal ScpAs lack the ScpB-binding segment that is commonly present in the middle of bacterial ScpA sequences, which is thus responsible for their inability to interact with ScpB. ScpA proteins lacking the ScpB-binding segment are found to prevail in archaea. Moreover, two archaeal ScpA proteins with a longer middle region also failed to bind their putative ScpB partner. Furthermore, all or most species belonging to five out of 14 euryarchaeotal orders contain Smc and ScpA but not a detectable ScpB homologue. These data support the notion that archaeal Smc-based complexes generally function as a two-subunit complex composed of only Smc and ScpA.