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MetRxn: a knowledgebase of metabolites and reactions spanning metabolic models and databases

Akhil Kumar1, Patrick F Suthers2 and Costas D Maranas2*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Computer Science, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA

2 Department of Chemical Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA

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BMC Bioinformatics 2012, 13:6  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-13-6

Published: 10 January 2012

Abstract

Background

Increasingly, metabolite and reaction information is organized in the form of genome-scale metabolic reconstructions that describe the reaction stoichiometry, directionality, and gene to protein to reaction associations. A key bottleneck in the pace of reconstruction of new, high-quality metabolic models is the inability to directly make use of metabolite/reaction information from biological databases or other models due to incompatibilities in content representation (i.e., metabolites with multiple names across databases and models), stoichiometric errors such as elemental or charge imbalances, and incomplete atomistic detail (e.g., use of generic R-group or non-explicit specification of stereo-specificity).

Description

MetRxn is a knowledgebase that includes standardized metabolite and reaction descriptions by integrating information from BRENDA, KEGG, MetaCyc, Reactome.org and 44 metabolic models into a single unified data set. All metabolite entries have matched synonyms, resolved protonation states, and are linked to unique structures. All reaction entries are elementally and charge balanced. This is accomplished through the use of a workflow of lexicographic, phonetic, and structural comparison algorithms. MetRxn allows for the download of standardized versions of existing genome-scale metabolic models and the use of metabolic information for the rapid reconstruction of new ones.

Conclusions

The standardization in description allows for the direct comparison of the metabolite and reaction content between metabolic models and databases and the exhaustive prospecting of pathways for biotechnological production. This ever-growing dataset currently consists of over 76,000 metabolites participating in more than 72,000 reactions (including unresolved entries). MetRxn is hosted on a web-based platform that uses relational database models (MySQL).