This article was featured in Library Notes #53 (June 2009).
The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) has recently unveiled a new database for pathway and systems exploration: BioSystems.
The BioSystems database was developed by the NCBI as a "collaborative and complimentary project" to databases such as KEGG and BioCyc. BioSystems serves as a centralized repository for data from these other sources, connects this data with the various other database records in NCBI's Entrez system (such as PubMed, EntrezGene, EntrezNucleotide) and provides the user with the ability to access data from each of these sources.
BioSystems allows users to find pathways that involve a protein, gene or small molecule, then discover other biosystems that involve that molecule. The database is designed to incorporate data from other sources (such as disease pathways) as these data become available. Since BioSystems is linked to all the other NCBI Entrez databases, users can navigate easily between records for biosystems, genes, proteins, small molecules and even structures. Additionally, users can link out of the Entrez system to KEGG pathway diagrams that have interactive nodes that then link to KEGG records for each gene in the pathway.
BioSystems does not function in the same way as pathway analysis tools such as Ingenuity Pathways Analysis, in that users cannot upload their own high-throughput data to the system. What it does do is allow users to access authoritative data that is thoroughly annotated and incorporated into complex systems of biomolecular interaction.
Another feature of BioSystems that is typical of all NCBI databases is the extensive supporting material available to users such as a detailed and organized help page and a how-to page with quick-start guided tutorials.
For questions or assistance with NCBI bioinformatics tools and databases, contact me: click on the "Email Pam" link on my liaison page.
The Biosciences & Bioinformatics Blog highlights new tools and news items of interest to the biosciences research community at Northwestern University.