Comparative genomic analysis reveals differential genomic characteristics and featured genes between rapid- and slow-growing non-tuberculous mycobacteria

Menglu Zhang, Peihan Wang, Cuidan Li, Ofir Segev, Jie Wang, Xiaotong Wang, Liya Yue, Xiaoyuan Jiang, Yongjie Sheng, Asaf Levy, Chunlai Jiang*, Fei Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) is a major category of environmental bacteria in nature that can be divided into rapidly growing mycobacteria (RGM) and slowly growing mycobacteria (SGM) based on their distinct growth rates. To explore differential molecular mechanisms between RGM and SGM is crucial to understand their survival state, environmental/host adaptation and pathogenicity. Comparative genomic analysis provides a powerful tool for deeply investigating differential molecular mechanisms between them. However, large-scale comparative genomic analysis between RGM and SGM is still uncovered. Methods: In this study, we screened 335 high-quality, non-redundant NTM genome sequences covering 187 species from 3,478 online NTM genomes, and then performed a comprehensive comparative genomic analysis to identify differential genomic characteristics and featured genes/protein domains between RGM and SGM. Results: Our findings reveal that RGM has a larger genome size, more genes, lower GC content, and more featured genes/protein domains in metabolism of some main substances (e.g. carbohydrates, amino acids, nucleotides, ions, and coenzymes), energy metabolism, signal transduction, replication, transcription, and translation processes, which are essential for its rapid growth requirements. On the other hand, SGM has a smaller genome size, fewer genes, higher GC content, and more featured genes/protein domains in lipid and secondary metabolite metabolisms and cellular defense mechanisms, which help enhance its genome stability and environmental adaptability. Additionally, orthogroup analysis revealed the important roles of bacterial division and bacteriophage associated genes in RGM and secretion system related genes for better environmental adaptation in SGM. Notably, PCoA analysis of the top 20 genes/protein domains showed precision classification between RGM and SGM, indicating the credibility of our screening/classification strategies. Discussion: Overall, our findings shed light on differential underlying molecular mechanisms in survival state, adaptation and pathogenicity between RGM and SGM, show the potential for our comparative genomic pipeline to investigate differential genes/protein domains at whole genomic level across different bacterial species on a large scale, and provide an important reference and improved understanding of NTM.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number1243371
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2023 Zhang, Wang, Li, Segev, Wang, Wang, Yue, Jiang, Sheng, Levy, Jiang and Chen.


  • adaptive evolution
  • comparative genomics
  • growth rate
  • non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM)
  • rapidly growing mycobacteria (RGM)
  • slowly growing mycobacteria (SGM)
  • toxin-antitoxin


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