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The large-scale organization of metabolic networks


In a cell or microorganism, the processes that generate mass, energy, information transfer and cell-fate specification are seamlessly integrated through a complex network of cellular constituents and reactions1. However, despite the key role of these networks in sustaining cellular functions, their large-scale structure is essentially unknown. Here we present a systematic comparative mathematical analysis of the metabolic networks of 43 organisms representing all three domains of life. We show that, despite significant variation in their individual constituents and pathways, these metabolic networks have the same topological scaling properties and show striking similarities to the inherent organization of complex non-biological systems2. This may indicate that metabolic organization is not only identical for all living organisms, but also complies with the design principles of robust and error-tolerant scale-free networks2,3,4,5, and may represent a common blueprint for the large-scale organization of interactions among all cellular constituents.

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Figure 1: Attributes of generic network structures.
Figure 2: Connectivity distributions P(k) for substrates.
Figure 3: Properties of metabolic networks.

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We thank all members of the WIT project for making this invaluable database publicly available. We also thank C. Waltenbaugh and H. S. Seifert for comments on the manuscript. Research at the University of Notre Dame was supported by the National Science Foundation, and at Northwestern University by grants from the National Cancer Institute.

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Correspondence to Z. N. Oltvai or A.-L. Barabási.

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Jeong, H., Tombor, B., Albert, R. et al. The large-scale organization of metabolic networks. Nature 407, 651–654 (2000).

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