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KEGG Pathway Maps

Graphical map objects

The KEGG pathway map is a moleculalr interaction/reaction network diagram represented in terms of the KEGG Orthology (KO) groups, so that experimental evidence in specific organisms can be generalized to other organisms through genomic information. Each map is manually drawn with in-house software called KegSketch, which generates the KGML+ file. This file is an SVG file containing graphics objects that are associated with KEGG objects (see KEGG object identifiers). Basic graphics objects in the reference KEGG pathway maps are:
  • boxes - ortholog (KO) groups identified by K numbers and, in metabolic maps, reactions identified by R numbers as well
  • circles - other molecules, usually chemical compounds identified by C numbers, but including glycans identified by G numbers
  • lines - reactions identified by R numbers in metabolic maps; ortholog (KO) groups identified by K numbers in global metabolism maps
and in organism specific pathway maps that are computationally generated:
  • boxes - genes or gene products identified by the combination of the KEGG organism code and gene identifiers
These map objects can be searched in the search box at the top of the KEGG PATHWAY page, in the search boxes of the pathway map viewer, and by the KEGG Mapper tools.

Convention of map number prefix

Each pathway map is identified by the combination of 2-4 letter code and 5 digit number (see KEGG Identifiers). The prefix has the following meaning:
  • map - Reference pathway
  • ko - Reference pathway (KO)
  • ec - Reference pathway (EC)
  • rn - Reference pathway (Reaction)
  • org - Organism-specific pathway map
Only the first reference pathway map is manually drawn; all other maps are computationally generated. For metabolic pathways, each box (or line) in the reference map is linked to the K number (KO identifeir), the EC number, and the R number (reaction identifier). The KO, EC, and reaction maps are linked to only one of them. For all metabolic and non-metabolic maps, K numbers are converted to gene identifiers in each organism to generate organism-specific pathways.


As shown here, "map" pathways are not colored, "ko/ec/rn" pathways are colored blue, and organism-specific pathways are colored green, where coloring indicates that map objects exist and are linked to corresponding entries.

For global metabolism maps, "map" pathways are fully colored, so that "ko/ec/rn" pathways and organism-specific pathways are generated by reducing the coloring indicating the absence of corresponding entries.

About KGML files

KGML is an exchange format of KEGG pathway maps. It is meant for outside users and is not used in any service or database update procedure within KEGG. KGML files, which are computationally generated from the manually defined KGML+ file, contain information about entries (KEGG objects) and two types of relationships.
  • relations - relationships between boxes
  • reactions - relationships between circles

Last updated: June 1, 2011

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