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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Comparative genomic analysis of Mycobacterium tuberculosis clinical isolates

Fei Liu1, Yongfei Hu1, Qi Wang1, Hong Min Li2, George F Gao1, Cui Hua Liu1* and Baoli Zhu1*

Author Affiliations

1 CAS key Laboratory of Pathogenic Microbiology and Immunology, Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

2 Institute for Tuberculosis Research, the 309th Hospital, Beijing, China

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BMC Genomics 2014, 15:469  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-469

Published: 13 June 2014



Due to excessive antibiotic use, drug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis has become a serious public health threat and a major obstacle to disease control in many countries. To better understand the evolution of drug-resistant M. tuberculosis strains, we performed whole genome sequencing for 7 M. tuberculosis clinical isolates with different antibiotic resistance profiles and conducted comparative genomic analysis of gene variations among them.


We observed that all 7 M. tuberculosis clinical isolates with different levels of drug resistance harbored similar numbers of SNPs, ranging from 1409–1464. The numbers of insertion/deletions (Indels) identified in the 7 isolates were also similar, ranging from 56 to 101. A total of 39 types of mutations were identified in drug resistance-associated loci, including 14 previously reported ones and 25 newly identified ones. Sixteen of the identified large Indels spanned PE-PPE-PGRS genes, which represents a major source of antigenic variability. Aside from SNPs and Indels, a CRISPR locus with varied spacers was observed in all 7 clinical isolates, suggesting that they might play an important role in plasticity of the M. tuberculosis genome. The nucleotide diversity (Л value) and selection intensity (dN/dS value) of the whole genome sequences of the 7 isolates were similar. The dN/dS values were less than 1 for all 7 isolates (range from 0.608885 to 0.637365), supporting the notion that M. tuberculosis genomes undergo purifying selection. The Л values and dN/dS values were comparable between drug-susceptible and drug-resistant strains.


In this study, we show that clinical M. tuberculosis isolates exhibit distinct variations in terms of the distribution of SNP, Indels, CRISPR-cas locus, as well as the nucleotide diversity and selection intensity, but there are no generalizable differences between drug-susceptible and drug-resistant isolates on the genomic scale. Our study provides evidence strengthening the notion that the evolution of drug resistance among clinical M. tuberculosis isolates is clearly a complex and diversified process.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis; Drug resistance; Single nucleotide polymorphisms; Whole genome sequencing; Evolution