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Trends Biotechnol. 2003 Feb;21(2):64-9.

Two approaches for metabolic pathway analysis?

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Max Planck Institute for Dynamics of Complex Technical Systems, Sandtorstr. 1, D-39106 Magdeburg, Germany.


Metabolic pathway analysis is becoming increasingly important for assessing inherent network properties in (reconstructed) biochemical reaction networks. Of the two most promising concepts for pathway analysis, one relies on elementary flux modes and the other on extreme pathways. These concepts are closely related because extreme pathways are a subset of elementary modes. Here, the common features, differences and applicability of these concepts are discussed. Assessing metabolic systems by the set of extreme pathways can, in general, give misleading results owing to the exclusion of possibly important routes. However, in certain network topologies, the sets of elementary modes and extreme pathways coincide. This is quite often the case in realistic applications. In our opinion, the unification of both approaches into one common framework for metabolic pathway analysis is necessary and achievable.

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