An Algorithm for Efficient Identification of Branched Metabolic Pathways

A. P. Heath, G. N. Bennett, and L. E. Kavraki, “An Algorithm for Efficient Identification of Branched Metabolic Pathways,” Journal of Computational Biology, vol. 18, no. 11, pp. 1575–1597, Nov. 2011.


This article presents a new graph-based algorithm for identifying branched metabolic pathways in multi-genome scale metabolic data. The term branched is used to refer to metabolic pathways between compounds that consist of multiple pathways that interact biochemically. A branched pathway may produce a target compound through a combination of linear pathways that split compounds into smaller ones, work in parallel with many compounds, and join compounds into larger ones. While branched metabolic pathways predominate in metabolic networks, most previous work has focused on identifying linear metabolic pathways. The ability to automatically identify branched pathways is important in applications that require a deeper understanding of metabolism, such as metabolic engineering and drug target identification. The algorithm presented in this article utilizes explicit atom tracking to identify linear metabolic pathways and then merges them together into branched metabolic pathways. We provide results on several well-characterized metabolic pathways that demonstrate that the new merging approach can efficiently find biologically relevant branched metabolic pathways.