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graphite - a Bioconductor package to convert pathway topology to gene network

Gabriele Sales1, Enrica Calura1, Duccio Cavalieri2 and Chiara Romualdi1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biology, University of Padova, via U. Bassi 58/B, Padova, Italy

2 Department of Computational Biology, Istituto Agrario di San Michele all'Adige, Trento, Italy

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BMC Bioinformatics 2012, 13:20  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-13-20

Published: 31 January 2012



Gene set analysis is moving towards considering pathway topology as a crucial feature. Pathway elements are complex entities such as protein complexes, gene family members and chemical compounds. The conversion of pathway topology to a gene/protein networks (where nodes are a simple element like a gene/protein) is a critical and challenging task that enables topology-based gene set analyses.

Unfortunately, currently available R/Bioconductor packages provide pathway networks only from single databases. They do not propagate signals through chemical compounds and do not differentiate between complexes and gene families.


Here we present graphite, a Bioconductor package addressing these issues. Pathway information from four different databases is interpreted following specific biologically-driven rules that allow the reconstruction of gene-gene networks taking into account protein complexes, gene families and sensibly removing chemical compounds from the final graphs. The resulting networks represent a uniform resource for pathway analyses. Indeed, graphite provides easy access to three recently proposed topological methods. The graphite package is available as part of the Bioconductor software suite.


graphite is an innovative package able to gather and make easily available the contents of the four major pathway databases. In the field of topological analysis graphite acts as a provider of biological information by reducing the pathway complexity considering the biological meaning of the pathway elements.