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Regulatory network operations in the Pathway Tools software

Suzanne M Paley, Mario Latendresse and Peter D Karp*

Author Affiliations

Bioinformatics Research Group, SRI International 333 Ravenswood Ave, Menlo Park, CA 94025

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BMC Bioinformatics 2012, 13:243  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-13-243

Published: 24 September 2012



Biologists are elucidating complex collections of genetic regulatory data for multiple organisms. Software is needed for such regulatory network data.


The Pathway Tools software supports storage and manipulation of regulatory information through a variety of strategies. The Pathway Tools regulation ontology captures transcriptional and translational regulation, substrate-level regulation of enzyme activity, post-translational modifications, and regulatory pathways. Regulatory visualizations include a novel diagram that summarizes all regulatory influences on a gene; a transcription-unit diagram, and an interactive visualization of a full transcriptional regulatory network that can be painted with gene expression data to probe correlations between gene expression and regulatory mechanisms. We introduce a novel type of enrichment analysis that asks whether a gene-expression dataset is over-represented for known regulators. We present algorithms for ranking the degree of regulatory influence of genes, and for computing the net positive and negative regulatory influences on a gene.


Pathway Tools provides a comprehensive environment for manipulating molecular regulatory interactions that integrates regulatory data with an organism’s genome and metabolic network. Curated collections of regulatory data authored using Pathway Tools are available for Escherichia coli, Bacillus subtilis, and Shewanella oneidensis.

Regulatory networks; Regulatory interactions; Regulation ontology; Bioinformatics