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Chemical Similarity Enrichment Analysis (ChemRICH) as alternative to biochemical pathway mapping for metabolomic datasets

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Metabolomics answers a fundamental question in biology: How does metabolism respond to genetic, environmental or phenotypic perturbations? Combining several metabolomics assays can yield datasets for more than 800 structurally identified metabolites. However, biological interpretations of metabolic regulation in these datasets are hindered by inherent limits of pathway enrichment statistics. We have developed ChemRICH, a statistical enrichment approach that is based on chemical similarity rather than sparse biochemical knowledge annotations. ChemRICH utilizes structure similarity and chemical ontologies to map all known metabolites and name metabolic modules. Unlike pathway mapping, this strategy yields study-specific, non-overlapping sets of all identified metabolites. Subsequent enrichment statistics is superior to pathway enrichments because ChemRICH sets have a self-contained size where p-values do not rely on the size of a background database. We demonstrate ChemRICH’s efficiency on a public metabolomics data set discerning the development of type 1 diabetes in a non-obese diabetic mouse model. ChemRICH is available at

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