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BMC Bioinformatics. 2008 Apr 16;9:199. doi: 10.1186/1471-2105-9-199.

anNET: a tool for network-embedded thermodynamic analysis of quantitative metabolome data.

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ETH Zurich, Institute of Molecular Systems Biology, Wolfgang-Pauli Strasse 16, 8093 Zurich, Switzerland.



Compared to other omics techniques, quantitative metabolomics is still at its infancy. Complex sample preparation and analytical procedures render exact quantification extremely difficult. Furthermore, not only the actual measurement but also the subsequent interpretation of quantitative metabolome data to obtain mechanistic insights is still lacking behind the current expectations. Recently, the method of network-embedded thermodynamic (NET) analysis was introduced to address some of these open issues. Building upon principles of thermodynamics, this method allows for a quality check of measured metabolite concentrations and enables to spot metabolic reactions where active regulation potentially controls metabolic flux. So far, however, widespread application of NET analysis in metabolomics labs was hindered by the absence of suitable software.


We have developed in Matlab a generalized software called 'anNET' that affords a user-friendly implementation of the NET analysis algorithm. anNET supports the analysis of any metabolic network for which a stoichiometric model can be compiled. The model size can span from a single reaction to a complete genome-wide network reconstruction including compartments. anNET can (i) test quantitative data sets for thermodynamic consistency, (ii) predict metabolite concentrations beyond the actually measured data, (iii) identify putative sites of active regulation in the metabolic reaction network, and (iv) help in localizing errors in data sets that were found to be thermodynamically infeasible. We demonstrate the application of anNET with three published Escherichia coli metabolome data sets.


Our user-friendly and generalized implementation of the NET analysis method in the software anNET allows users to rapidly integrate quantitative metabolome data obtained from virtually any organism. We envision that use of anNET in labs working on quantitative metabolomics will provide the systems biology and metabolic engineering communities with a mean to proof the quality of metabolome data sets and with all further benefits of the NET analysis approach.

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