Whole-genome comparisons of the tubercle bacilli were undertaken using ordered bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) libraries of Mycobacterium tuberculosis and the vaccine strain, Mycobacterium bovis BCG-Pasteur, together with the complete genome sequence of M. tuberculosis H37Rv. Restriction-digested BAC arrays of M. tuberculosis H37Rv were used in hybridization experiments with radiolabelled M. bovis BCG genomic DNA to reveal the presence of 10 deletions (RD1-RD10) relative to M. tuberculosis. Seven of these regions, RD4-RD10, were also found to be deleted from M. bovis, with the three M. bovis BCG-specific deletions being identical to the RD1-RD3 loci described previously. The distribution of RD4-RD10 in Mycobacterium africanum resembles that of M. tuberculosis more closely than that of M. bovis, whereas an intermediate arrangement was found in Mycobacterium microti, suggesting that the corresponding genes may affect host range and virulence of the various tubercle bacilli. Among the known products encoded by these loci are a copy of the proposed mycobacterial invasin Mce, three phospholipases, several PE, PPE and ESAT-6 proteins, epoxide hydrolase and an insertion sequence. In a complementary approach, direct comparison of BACs uncovered a third class of deletions consisting of two M. tuberculosis H37Rv loci, RvD1 and RvD2, deleted from the genome relative to M. bovis BCG and M. bovis. These deletions affect a further seven genes, including a fourth phospholipase, plcD. In summary, the insertions and deletions described here have important implications for our understanding of the evolution of the tubercle complex.