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Open Access Technical Note

CytoITMprobe: a network information flow plugin for Cytoscape

Aleksandar Stojmirović, Alexander Bliskovsky and Yi-Kuo Yu*

Author Affiliations

National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Library of Medicine, NIH, Bethesda, MD 20894, USA

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BMC Research Notes 2012, 5:237  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-5-237

Published: 15 May 2012

Abstract

Background

Cytoscape is a well-developed flexible platform for visualization, integration and analysis of network data. Apart from the sophisticated graph layout and visualization routines, it hosts numerous user-developed plugins that significantly extend its core functionality. Earlier, we developed a network information flow framework and implemented it as a web application, called ITM Probe. Given a context consisting of one or more user-selected nodes, ITM Probe retrieves other network nodes most related to that context. It requires neither user restriction to subnetwork of interest nor additional and possibly noisy information. However, plugins for Cytoscape with these features do not yet exist. To provide the Cytoscape users the possibility of integrating ITM Probe into their workflows, we developed CytoITMprobe, a new Cytoscape plugin.

Findings

CytoITMprobe maintains all the desirable features of ITM Probe and adds additional flexibility not achievable through its web service version. It provides access to ITM Probe either through a web server or locally. The input, consisting of a Cytoscape network, together with the desired origins and/or destinations of information and a dissipation coefficient, is specified through a query form. The results are shown as a subnetwork of significant nodes and several summary tables. Users can control the composition and appearance of the subnetwork and interchange their ITM Probe results with other software tools through tab-delimited files.

Conclusions

The main strength of CytoITMprobe is its flexibility. It allows the user to specify as input any Cytoscape network, rather than being restricted to the pre-compiled protein-protein interaction networks available through the ITM Probe web service. Users may supply their own edge weights and directionalities. Consequently, as opposed to ITM Probe web service, CytoITMprobe can be applied to many other domains of network-based research beyond protein-networks. It also enables seamless integration of ITM Probe results with other Cytoscape plugins having complementary functionality for data analysis.

Keywords:
Information flow; Interaction networks; Network analysis; Cytoscape plugin