Weighted statistical binning: Enabling statistically consistent genome-scale phylogenetic analyses

Md Shamsuzzoha Bayzid, Siavash Mirarab, Bastien Boussau, Tandy Warnow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Because biological processes can result in different loci having different evolutionary histories, species tree estimation requires multiple loci from across multiple genomes. While many processes can result in discord between gene trees and species trees, incomplete lineage sorting (ILS), modeled by the multi-species coalescent, is considered to be a dominant cause for gene tree heterogeneity. Coalescent-based methods have been developed to estimate species trees, many of which operate by combining estimated gene trees, and so are called "summary methods". Because summary methods are generally fast (and much faster than more complicated coalescent-based methods that co-estimate gene trees and species trees), they have become very popular techniques for estimating species trees from multiple loci. However, recent studies have established that summary methods can have reduced accuracy in the presence of gene tree estimation error, and also that many biological datasets have substantial gene tree estimation error, so that summary methods may not be highly accurate in biologically realistic conditions. Mirarab et al. (Science 2014) presented the "statistical binning" technique to improve gene tree estimation in multi-locus analyses, and showed that it improved the accuracy of MP-EST, one of the most popular coalescent-based summary methods. Statistical binning, which uses a simple heuristic to evaluate "combinability" and then uses the larger sets of genes to re-calculate gene trees, has good empirical performance, but using statistical binning within a phylogenomic pipeline does not have the desirable property of being statistically consistent. We show that weighting the re-calculated gene trees by the bin sizes makes statistical binning statistically consistent under the multispecies coalescent, and maintains the good empirical performance. Thus, "weighted statistical binning" enables highly accurate genome-scale species tree estimation, and is also statistically consistent under the multi-species coalescent model. New data used in this study are available at DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.1411146, and the software is available at https://github.com/smirarab/binning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0129183
JournalPloS one
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 18 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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