Improved metagenome binning and assembly using deep variational autoencoders

Jakob Nybo Nissen, Joachim Johansen, Rosa Lundbye Allesøe, Casper Kaae Sønderby, Jose Juan Almagro Armenteros, Christopher Heje Grønbech, Lars Juhl Jensen, Henrik Bjørn Nielsen, Thomas Nordahl Petersen, Ole Winther, Simon Rasmussen*

*Corresponding author for this work


Despite recent advances in metagenomic binning, reconstruction of microbial species from metagenomics data remains challenging. Here we develop variational autoencoders for metagenomic binning (VAMB), a program that uses deep variational autoencoders to encode sequence coabundance and k-mer distribution information before clustering. We show that a variational autoencoder is able to integrate these two distinct data types without any previous knowledge of the datasets. VAMB outperforms existing state-of-the-art binners, reconstructing 29-98% and 45% more near-complete (NC) genomes on simulated and real data, respectively. Furthermore, VAMB is able to separate closely related strains up to 99.5% average nucleotide identity (ANI), and reconstructed 255 and 91 NC Bacteroides vulgatus and Bacteroides dorei sample-specific genomes as two distinct clusters from a dataset of 1,000 human gut microbiome samples. We use 2,606 NC bins from this dataset to show that species of the human gut microbiome have different geographical distribution patterns. VAMB can be run on standard hardware and is freely available at .

Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Biotechnology
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)555-560
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


  • Bacteroides/genetics
  • Genome, Bacterial/genetics
  • Humans
  • Metagenome/genetics
  • Metagenomics
  • Microbiota/genetics
  • Molecular Sequence Annotation
  • Software


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