|The underlying pathway structure of biochemical reaction networks.
|Year of Publication
|C.H. Schilling; B.Ø. Palsson
|PLoS Comput Biol
|Bioinformatics is yielding extensive, and in some cases complete, genetic and biochemical information about individual cell types and cellular processes, providing the composition of living cells and the molecular structure of its components. These components together perform integrated cellular functions that now need to be analyzed. In particular, the functional definition of biochemical pathways and their role in the context of the whole cell is lacking. In this study, we show how the mass balance constraints that govern the function of biochemical reaction networks lead to the translation of this problem into the realm of linear algebra. The functional capabilities of biochemical reaction networks, and thus the choices that cells can make, are reflected in the null space of their stoichiometric matrix. The null space is spanned by a finite number of basis vectors. We present an algorithm for the synthesis of a set of basis vectors for spanning the null space of the stoichiometric matrix, in which these basis vectors represent the underlying biochemical pathways that are fundamental to the corresponding biochemical reaction network. In other words, all possible flux distributions achievable by a defined set of biochemical reactions are represented by a linear combination of these basis pathways. These basis pathways thus represent the underlying pathway structure of the defined biochemical reaction network. This development is significant from a fundamental and conceptual standpoint because it yields a holistic definition of biochemical pathways in contrast to definitions that have arisen from the historical development of our knowledge about biochemical processes. Additionally, this new conceptual framework will be important in defining, characterizing, and studying biochemical pathways from the rapidly growing information on cellular function.