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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2009 Sep;1794(9):1364-71. doi: 10.1016/j.bbapap.2009.06.015. Epub 2009 Jun 27.

Tracing metabolic pathways from enzyme data.

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Department of Biochemistry, Trinity College, Dublin 2, Ireland.


The IUBMB Enzyme List is widely used by other databases as a source for avoiding ambiguity in the recognition of enzymes as catalytic entities. However, it was never designed for activities such as pathway tracing, which have become increasingly important in systems biology. This is because it often relies on generic or representative reactions to show the reactions catalysed by enzymes of wide specificity. It is necessary to go to databases such as BRENDA to find further, more detailed, information on what is known about the range of substrates for any particular enzyme. In order to provide a framework for tracing pathways involving any specific enzyme or metabolite, we have created a Reactions Database from the material in the Enzyme List. This allows reactions to be searched by substrate/product and pathways to be traced from any selected starting/seed substrate. An extensive synonym glossary allows searches by many of the alternative names, including accepted abbreviations, by which a chemical compound may be known. This database was necessary for the development of the application Reaction Explorer (, which was written in REALbasic to search the Reactions Database and draw metabolic pathways from reactions selected by the user. Having input the name of the starting compound (the "seed"), the user is presented with a list of all reactions containing that compound and then selects the product of interest as the next point on the ensuing graph. The pathway diagram is then generated as the process iterates. A contextual menu is provided, which allows the user to (i) remove a compound from the graph, along with all associated links; (ii) search the reactions database again for additional reactions involving the compound and (iii) search for the compound within the Enzyme List.

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