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J Mol Evol. 2001 Jun;52(6):471-89.

Phylogenetic analysis of metabolic pathways.

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Theoretical Biophysics Group, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Beckman Institute, MC-251, 405 North Mathews Avenue, Urbana, IL 61801, USA.


The information provided by completely sequenced genomes can yield insights into the multi-level organization of organisms and their evolution. At the lowest level of molecular organization individual enzymes are formed, often through assembly of multiple polypeptides. At a higher level, sets of enzymes group into metabolic networks. Much has been learned about the relationship of species from phylogenetic trees comparing individual enzymes. In this article we extend conventional phylogenetic analysis of individual enzymes in different organisms to the organisms' metabolic networks. For this purpose we suggest a method that combines sequence information with information about the underlying reaction networks. A distance between pathways is defined as incorporating distances between substrates and distances between corresponding enzymes. The new analysis is applied to electron-transfer and amino acid biosynthesis networks yielding a more comprehensive understanding of similarities and differences between organisms.

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