The source of the microbial genomic sequences in the RefSeq collection is the set of primary sequence records submitted to the International Nucleotide Sequence Database public archives. These can be accessed through the Entrez search and retrieval system at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/genome. Next-generation sequencing has enabled researchers to perform genomic sequencing at rates that were unimaginable in the past. Microbial genomes can now be sequenced in a matter of hours, which has led to a significant increase in the number of assembled genomes deposited in the public archives. This huge increase in DNA sequence data presents new challenges for the annotation, analysis and visualization bioinformatics tools. New strategies have been developed for the annotation and representation of reference genomes and sequence variations derived from population studies and clinical outbreaks.