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A pan-genome is defined as the set of all unique gene families found in one or more strains of a prokaryotic species. Due to the extensive within-species diversity in the microbial world, the pan-genome is often many times larger than a single genome. Studies of pan-genomes have become popular due to the easy access to whole-genome sequence data for prokaryotes. A pan-genome study reveals species diversity and gene families that may be of special interest, e.g because of their role in bacterial survival or their ability to discriminate strains.
(Snipen et al., 2015) micropan: an R-package for microbial pan-genomics. BMC Bioinformatics.