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BMC Syst Biol. 2009 Oct 2;3:99. doi: 10.1186/1752-0509-3-99.

An editor for pathway drawing and data visualization in the Biopathways Workbench.

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  • 1San Diego Supercomputer Center, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0505, USA.



Pathway models serve as the basis for much of systems biology. They are often built using programs designed for the purpose. Constructing new models generally requires simultaneous access to experimental data of diverse types, to databases of well-characterized biological compounds and molecular intermediates, and to reference model pathways. However, few if any software applications provide all such capabilities within a single user interface.


The Pathway Editor is a program written in the Java programming language that allows de-novo pathway creation and downloading of LIPID MAPS (Lipid Metabolites and Pathways Strategy) and KEGG lipid metabolic pathways, and of measured time-dependent changes to lipid components of metabolism. Accessed through Java Web Start, the program downloads pathways from the LIPID MAPS Pathway database (Pathway) as well as from the LIPID MAPS web server Data arises from metabolomic (lipidomic), microarray, and protein array experiments performed by the LIPID MAPS consortium of laboratories and is arranged by experiment. Facility is provided to create, connect, and annotate nodes and processes on a drawing panel with reference to database objects and time course data. Node and interaction layout as well as data display may be configured in pathway diagrams as desired. Users may extend diagrams, and may also read and write data and non-lipidomic KEGG pathways to and from files. Pathway diagrams in XML format, containing database identifiers referencing specific compounds and experiments, can be saved to a local file for subsequent use. The program is built upon a library of classes, referred to as the Biopathways Workbench, that convert between different file formats and database objects. An example of this feature is provided in the form of read/construct/write access to models in SBML (Systems Biology Markup Language) contained in the local file system.


Inclusion of access to multiple experimental data types and of pathway diagrams within a single interface, automatic updating through connectivity to an online database, and a focus on annotation, including reference to standardized lipid nomenclature as well as common lipid names, supports the view that the Pathway Editor represents a significant, practicable contribution to current pathway modeling tools.

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