#### BACKGROUND:

Biochemically detailed stoichiometric matrices have now been reconstructed for various bacteria, yeast, and for the human cardiac mitochondrion based on genomic and proteomic data. These networks have been manually curated based on legacy data and elementally and charge balanced. Comparative analysis of these well curated networks is now possible. Pairs of metabolites often appear together in several network reactions, linking them topologically. This co-occurrence of pairs of metabolites in metabolic reactions is termed herein "metabolite coupling." These metabolite pairs can be directly computed from the stoichiometric matrix, S. Metabolite coupling is derived from the matrix ŝŝT, whose off-diagonal elements indicate the number of reactions in which any two metabolites participate together, where ŝ is the binary form of S.

#### RESULTS:

Metabolite coupling in the studied networks was found to be dominated by a relatively small group of highly interacting pairs of metabolites. As would be expected, metabolites with high individual metabolite connectivity also tended to be those with the highest metabolite coupling, as the most connected metabolites couple more often. For metabolite pairs that are not highly coupled, we show that the number of reactions a pair of metabolites shares across a metabolic network closely approximates a line on a log-log scale. We also show that the preferential coupling of two metabolites with each other is spread across the spectrum of metabolites and is not unique to the most connected metabolites. We provide a measure for determining which metabolite pairs couple more often than would be expected based on their individual connectivity in the network and show that these metabolites often derive their principal biological functions from existing in pairs. Thus, analysis of metabolite coupling provides information beyond that which is found from studying the individual connectivity of individual metabolites.

#### CONCLUSION:

The coupling of metabolites is an important topological property of metabolic networks. By computing coupling quantitatively for the first time in genome-scale metabolic networks, we provide insight into the basic structure of these networks.

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