Briefings in bioinformatics | 8 Nov 2012
M Lakshmanan, G Koh, BK Chung and DY Lee
Flux balance analysis (FBA) is a widely used computational method for characterizing and engineering intrinsic cellular metabolism. The increasing number of its successful applications and growing popularity are possibly attributable to the availability of specific software tools for FBA. Each tool has its unique features and limitations with respect to operational environment, user-interface and supported analysis algorithms. Presented herein is an in-depth evaluation of currently available FBA applications, focusing mainly on usability, functionality, graphical representation and inter-operability. Overall, most of the applications are able to perform basic features of model creation and FBA simulation. COBRA toolbox, OptFlux and FASIMU are versatile to support advanced in silico algorithms to identify environmental and genetic targets for strain design. SurreyFBA, WEbcoli, Acorn, FAME, GEMSiRV and MetaFluxNet are the distinct tools which provide the user friendly interfaces in model handling. In terms of software architecture, FBA-SimVis and OptFlux have the flexible environments as they enable the plug-in/add-on feature to aid prospective functional extensions. Notably, an increasing trend towards the implementation of more tailored e-services such as central model repository and assistance to collaborative efforts was observed among the web-based applications with the help of advanced web-technologies. Furthermore, most recent applications such as the Model SEED, FAME, MetaFlux and MicrobesFlux have even included several routines to facilitate the reconstruction of genome-scale metabolic models. Finally, a brief discussion on the future directions of FBA applications was made for the benefit of potential tool developers.
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