Stoicheiometric analysis of metabolic pathways provides a systematic way of determining which metabolite concentrations are subject to constraints, information that may otherwise be very difficult to recognize in a large branched pathway. The procedure involves representing the pathway structure in the form of a matrix and then carrying out row operations to convert the matrix into ‘row echelon form’: this is a form in which as many as possible of the elements on the main diagonal are non-zero, and all of the elements below the main diagonal are zero. If exactly the same operations are carried out on a unit matrix of order equal to the number of intermediate metabolites in the pathway, the resulting matrix allows the stoicheiometric constraints to be read off directly.

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