Members of the genus Pseudomonas inhabit a wide variety of environments, which is reflected in their versatile metabolic capacity and broad potential for adaptation to fluctuating environmental conditions. Here, we examine and compare the genomes of a range of Pseudomonas spp. encompassing plant, insect and human pathogens, and environmental saprophytes. In addition to a large number of allelic differences of common genes that confer regulatory and metabolic flexibility, genome analysis suggests that many other factors contribute to the diversity and adaptability of Pseudomonas spp. Horizontal gene transfer has impacted the capability of pathogenic Pseudomonas spp. in terms of disease severity (Pseudomonas aeruginosa) and specificity (Pseudomonas syringae). Genome rearrangements likely contribute to adaptation, and a considerable complement of unique genes undoubtedly contributes to strain- and species-specific activities by as yet unknown mechanisms. Because of the lack of conserved phenotypic differences, the classification of the genus has long been contentious. DNA hybridization and genome-based analyses show close relationships among members of P. aeruginosa, but that isolates within the Pseudomonas fluorescens and P. syringae species are less closely related and may constitute different species. Collectively, genome sequences of Pseudomonas spp. have provided insights into pathogenesis and the genetic basis for diversity and adaptation. © 2011 Federation of European Microbiological Societies. Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved.