GeneCensus: genome comparisons in terms of metabolic pathway activity and protein family sharing

Nucleic Acids Res. 2002 Oct 15;30(20):4574-82. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkf555.


We present a prototype of a new database tool, GeneCensus, which focuses on comparing genomes globally, in terms of the collective properties of many genes, rather than in terms of the attributes of a single gene (e.g. sequence similarity for a particular ortholog). The comparisons are presented in a visual fashion over the web at The system concentrates on two types of comparisons: (i) trees based on the sharing of generalized protein families between genomes, and (ii) whole pathway analysis in terms of activity levels. For the trees, we have developed a module (TreeViewer) that clusters genomes in terms of the folds, superfamilies or orthologs--all can be considered as generalized 'families' or 'protein parts'--they share, and compares the resulting trees side-by-side with those built from sequence similarity of individual genes (e.g. a traditional tree built on ribosomal similarity). We also include comparisons to trees built on whole-genome dinucleotide or codon composition. For pathway comparisons, we have implemented a module (PathwayPainter) that graphically depicts, in selected metabolic pathways, the fluxes or expression levels of the associated enzymes (i.e. generalized 'activities'). One can, consequently, compare organisms (and organism states) in terms of representations of these systemic quantities. Develop ment of this module involved compiling, calculating and standardizing flux and expression information from many different sources. We illustrate pathway analysis for enzymes involved in central metabolism. We are able to show that, to some degree, flux and expression fluctuations have characteristic values in different sections of the central metabolism and that control points in this system (e.g. hexokinase, pyruvate kinase, phosphofructokinase, isocitrate dehydrogenase and citric synthase) tend to be especially variable in flux and expression. Both the TreeViewer and PathwayPainter modules connect to other information sources related to individual-gene or organism properties (e.g. a single-gene structural annotation viewer).

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Composition
  • Databases, Genetic*
  • Enzymes / genetics
  • Gene Expression
  • Genome*
  • Genomics / methods*
  • Internet
  • Open Reading Frames
  • Proteins / classification
  • Proteins / genetics*
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Sequence Analysis / methods


  • Enzymes
  • Proteins