Improving the organization and interactivity of metabolic pathfinding with precomputed pathways

S. M. Kim, M. I. Peña, M. Moll, G. N. Bennett, and L. E. Kavraki, “Improving the organization and interactivity of metabolic pathfinding with precomputed pathways,” BMC Bioinformatics, vol. 21, no. 1, p. 13, Jan. 2020.


Background: The rapid growth of available knowledge on metabolic processes across thousands of species continues to expand the possibilities of producing chemicals by combining pathways found in different species. Several computational search algorithms have been developed for automating the identification of possible heterologous pathways; however, these searches may return thousands of pathway results. Although the large number of results are in part due to the large number of possible compounds and reactions, a subset of core reaction modules is repeatedly observed in pathway results across multiple searches, suggesting that some subpaths between common compounds were more consistently explored than others. To reduce the resources spent on searching the same metabolic space, a new meta-algorithm for metabolic pathfinding, Hub Pathway search with Atom Tracking (HPAT), was developed to take advantage of a precomputed network of subpath modules. To investigate the efficacy of this method, we created a table describing a network of common hub metabolites and how they are biochemically connected and only offloaded searches to and from this hub network onto an interactive webserver capable of visualizing the resulting pathways. Results: A test set of nineteen known pathways taken from literature and metabolic databases were used to evaluate if HPAT was capable of identifying known pathways. HPAT found the exact pathway for eleven of the nineteen test cases using a diverse set of precomputed subpaths, whereas a comparable pathfinding search algorithm that does not use precomputed subpaths found only seven of the nineteen test cases. The capability of HPAT to find novel pathways was demonstrated by its ability to identify novel 3-hydroxypropanoate (3-HP) synthesis pathways. As for pathway visualization, the new interactive pathway filters enable a reduction of the number of displayed pathways from hundreds down to less than ten pathways in several test cases, illustrating their utility in reducing the amount of presented information while retaining pathways of interest. Conclusions: This work presents the first step in incorporating a precomputed subpath network into metabolic pathfinding and demonstrates how this leads to a concise, interactive visualization of pathway results. The modular nature of metabolic pathways is exploited to facilitate efficient discovery of alternate pathways.


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