Shotgun sequencing enables the reconstruction of genomes from complex microbial communities, but because assembly does not reconstruct entire genomes, it is necessary to bin genome fragments. Here we present CONCOCT, a new algorithm that combines sequence composition and coverage across multiple samples, to automatically cluster contigs into genomes. We demonstrate high recall and precision on artificial as well as real human gut metagenome data sets.

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This research arose out of a workshop funded through the COST project ES1103 and hosted by P. Fernandes at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência. This work was funded by grants (to A.F.A.) from the Swedish Research Councils VR (grant 2011-5689), FORMAS (grant 2009-1174) and EC BONUS project BLUEPRINT. C.Q. is funded by an EPSRC Career Acceleration Fellowship—EP/H003851/1. M.S. is supported by Unilever R&D Port Sunlight, Bebington, UK. L.L. is supported by the Academy of Finland (grant 256950), N.L. by a UK Medical Research Council Special Training Fellowship in Biomedical Informatics and J.Q. by the UK National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Centre for Surgical Reconstruction and Microbiology. This paper presents independent research funded by the NIHR Surgical Reconstruction and Microbiology Research Centre (partnership between University Hospitals Birmingham National Health Service (NHS) Foundation Trust, the University of Birmingham and the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine). The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.

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Author notes

    • Johannes Alneberg
    •  & Brynjar Smári Bjarnason

    These authors contributed equally to this work.

    • Anders F Andersson
    •  & Christopher Quince

    These authors jointly directed this work.


  1. KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Science for Life Laboratory, School of Biotechnology, Division of Gene Technology, Stockholm, Sweden.

    • Johannes Alneberg
    • , Brynjar Smári Bjarnason
    • , Ino de Bruijn
    •  & Anders F Andersson
  2. Bioinformatics Infrastructure for Life Sciences (BILS), Stockholm, Sweden.

    • Ino de Bruijn
  3. School of Engineering, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK.

    • Melanie Schirmer
    • , Umer Z Ijaz
    •  & Christopher Quince
  4. Institute of Microbiology and Infection, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK.

    • Joshua Quick
    •  & Nicholas J Loman
  5. National Institute for Health Research Surgical Reconstruction (NIHR) Surgical Reconstruction and Microbiology Research Centre, University of Birmingham, UK.

    • Joshua Quick
  6. Department of Veterinary Biosciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.

    • Leo Lahti
  7. Laboratory of Microbiology, Wageningen University, Wageningen, the Netherlands.

    • Leo Lahti


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C.Q. developed the core algorithm and cluster validation metrics and performed analyses. A.F.A. assisted with the analyses, developed the SCG validation and contributed to algorithm development. J.A. and B.S.B. developed the CONCOCT software pipeline and contributed to algorithm development. I.d.B. performed assemblies and mappings. M.S. generated simulation data. J.Q. performed E. coli mappings. U.Z.I. assisted with SCG validation and production of graphics. L.L. helped with graphics and algorithm design. N.J.L. performed E. coli analysis and contributed to algorithm development. All authors contributed to the writing of the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Anders F Andersson or Christopher Quince.

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    Supplementary Figures 1–15, Supplementary Tables 1–8 and Supplementary Note

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    Supplementary Software

    CONCOCT version 0.3.3 software

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