Graphle: Interactive exploration of large, dense graphs

Curtis Huttenhower, Sajid O. Mehmood, Olga G. Troyanskaya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background: A wide variety of biological data can be modeled as network structures, including experimental results (e.g. protein-protein interactions), computational predictions (e.g. functional interaction networks), or curated structures (e.g. the Gene Ontology). While several tools exist for visualizing large graphs at a global level or small graphs in detail, previous systems have generally not allowed interactive analysis of dense networks containing thousands of vertices at a level of detail useful for biologists. Investigators often wish to explore specific portions of such networks from a detailed, gene-specific perspective, and balancing this requirement with the networks' large size, complex structure, and rich metadata is a substantial computational challenge.Results: Graphle is an online interface to large collections of arbitrary undirected, weighted graphs, each possibly containing tens of thousands of vertices (e.g. genes) and hundreds of millions of edges (e.g. interactions). These are stored on a centralized server and accessed efficiently through an interactive Java applet. The Graphle applet allows a user to examine specific portions of a graph, retrieving the relevant neighborhood around a set of query vertices (genes). This neighborhood can then be refined and modified interactively, and the results can be saved either as publication-quality images or as raw data for further analysis. The Graphle web site currently includes several hundred biological networks representing predicted functional relationships from three heterogeneous data integration systems: S. cerevisiae data from bioPIXIE, E. coli data using MEFIT, and H. sapiens data from HEFalMp.Conclusions: Graphle serves as a search and visualization engine for biological networks, which can be managed locally (simplifying collaborative data sharing) and investigated remotely. The Graphle framework is freely downloadable and easily installed on new servers, allowing any lab to quickly set up a Graphle site from which their own biological network data can be shared online.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number417
JournalBMC bioinformatics
StatePublished - Dec 14 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Mathematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Structural Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Computer Science Applications


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