16S rRNA sequences from Mycobacterium tuberculosis, M. avium, M. gastri, M. kansasii, M. marinum, M. chelonae, M. smegmatis, M. terrae, M. gordonae, M. scrofulaceum, M. szulgai, M. intracellulare, M. nonchromogenicum, M. xenopi, M. malmoense, M. simiae, M. flavescens, M. fortuitum, and M. paratuberculosis were determined and compared. The sequence data were used to infer a phylogenetic tree, which provided the basis for a systematic phylogenetic analysis of the genus Mycobacterium. The groups of slow- and fast-growing mycobacteria could be differentiated as distinct entities. We found that M. simiae occupies phylogenetically an intermediate position between these two groups. The phylogenetic relatedness within the slow-growing species did not reflect the Runyon classification of photochromogenic, scotchromogenic, and nonchromogenic mycobacteria. In general, the phylogenetic units identified by using rRNA sequences confirmed the validity of phenotypically defined species; an exception was M. gastri, which was indistinguishable from M. kansasii when this kind of analysis was used.