A Genomic Distance Based on MUM Indicates Discontinuity between Most Bacterial Species and Genera

Marc Deloger, Meriem El Karoui, Marie-Agnès Petit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The fundamental unit of biological diversity is the species. However, a remarkable extent of intraspecies diversity in bacteria was discovered by genome sequencing, and it reveals the need to develop clear criteria to group strains within a species. Two main types of analyses used to quantify intraspecies variation at the genome level are the average nucleotide identity (ANI), which detects the DNA conservation of the core genome, and the DNA content, which calculates the proportion of DNA shared by two genomes. Both estimates are based on BLAST alignments for the definition of DNA sequences common to the genome pair. Interestingly, however, results using these methods on intraspecies pairs are not well correlated. This prompted us to develop a genomic-distance index taking into account both criteria of diversity, which are based on DNA maximal unique matches (MUM) shared by two genomes. The values, called MUMi, for MUM index, correlate better with the ANI than with the DNA content. Moreover, the MUMi groups strains in a way that is congruent with routinely used multilocus sequence-typing trees, as well as with ANI-based trees. We used the MUMi to determine the relatedness of all available genome pairs at the species and genus levels. Our analysis reveals a certain consistency in the current notion of bacterial species, in that the bulk of intraspecies and intragenus values are clearly separable. It also confirms that some species are much more diverse than most. As the MUMi is fast to calculate, it offers the possibility of measuring genome distances on the whole database of available genomes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-99
JournalJournal of Bacteriology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2009


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