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Bioinformatics. 2011 Jul 15;27(14):1957-63. doi: 10.1093/bioinformatics/btr271. Epub 2011 May 5.

The strength of chemical linkage as a criterion for pruning metabolic graphs.

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  • 1Department of Bioengineering, Rice University, Houston, TX, USA.



A metabolic graph represents the connectivity patterns of a metabolic system, and provides a powerful framework within which the organization of metabolic reactions can be analyzed and elucidated. A common practice is to prune (i.e. remove nodes and edges) the metabolic graph prior to any analysis in order to eliminate confounding signals from the representation. Currently, this pruning process is carried out in an ad hoc fashion, resulting in discrepancies and ambiguities across studies.


We propose a biochemically informative criterion, the strength of chemical linkage (SCL), for a systematic pruning of metabolic graphs. By analyzing the metabolic graph of Escherichia coli, we show that thresholding SCL is powerful in selecting the conventional pathways' connectivity out of the raw network connectivity when the network is restricted to the reactions collected from these pathways. Further, we argue that the root of ambiguity in pruning metabolic graphs is in the continuity of the amount of chemical content that can be conserved in reaction transformation patterns. Finally, we demonstrate how biochemical pathways can be inferred efficiently if the search procedure is guided by SCL.

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