Staphylococcus aureus is a versatile pathogen that shows high levels of inter-strain genetic variability and positive evolution in certain pathogenesis-related genes. Apart from gene content differences, variability in shared genes may affect pathogenicity. Studying such variability requires that the common minimal genome (CMG) be identified. In this study, we have surveyed the CMG of S. aureus with respect to variability amongst orthologous family members, and determined that genes involved in pathogenesis preferentially accumulate variations. A negative correlation between variability of genes and their evolution was found, suggesting a preservation of host-specific function while exhibiting sequence diversity. Variation in key pathogenesis genes in S. aureus might predispose them to functional modulation, thereby playing an important role in evasion of host immunity.