Are there any generalized molecular principles of thermal adaptation? Here, integrating the concepts of structural bioinformatics, sequence analysis, and classical knot theory, we develop a robust computational framework that seeks for mechanisms of thermal adaptation by comparing orthologous mesophilic-thermophilic and mesophilic-hyperthermophilic proteins of remarkable structural and topological similarities, and still leads us to context-independent results. A comprehensive analysis of 4741 high-resolution, non-redundant X-ray crystallographic structures collected from 11 hyperthermophilic, 32 thermophilic and 53 mesophilic prokaryotes unravels at least five “nearly universal” signatures of thermal adaptation, irrespective of the enormous sequence, structure, and functional diversity of the proteins compared. A careful investigation further extracts a set of amino acid changes that can potentially enhance protein thermal stability, and remarkably, these mutations are overrepresented in protein crystallization experiments, in disorder-to-order transitions and in engineered thermostable variants of existing mesophilic proteins. These results could be helpful to find a precise, global picture of thermal adaptation. © 2019 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.