Metabolomics: Small-Molecule 'Omics

Courtesy of SRI International  METABOLITES GO 'OMIC': Metabolomics researchers seek to catalog and quantify the myriad small molecules found in biological fluids. Such molecules stem from biological pathways, whose complexity and interrelationships are neatly captured in this depiction of SRI International's BioCyc database. The dots represent individual metabolites and the lines represent enzymatic reactions that interconvert the metabolites. The circle surrounding the pathways depicts th

Amy Adams
Apr 20, 2003
Courtesy of SRI International
 METABOLITES GO 'OMIC': Metabolomics researchers seek to catalog and quantify the myriad small molecules found in biological fluids. Such molecules stem from biological pathways, whose complexity and interrelationships are neatly captured in this depiction of SRI International's BioCyc database. The dots represent individual metabolites and the lines represent enzymatic reactions that interconvert the metabolites. The circle surrounding the pathways depicts the cell membrane, with embedded transporters.

Every cellular component has an 'ome.' There is a genome, a proteome, a transcriptome, and a glycome to catalog DNA, protein, RNA, and sugars, respectively. Not to be outdone, the low-molecular-weight compounds that carry out much of the cell's business--lipids, carbohydrates, vitamins, and hormones, among others--now have an 'omics' to call their own, too. They are the focus of a small but growing field called metabolomics.

"Biology encompasses genes, proteins, and metabolites. Any biologist without an agenda to promote...

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