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Metabolism is a fascinating cell machinery underlying life and disease and genome-scale reconstructions provide us with a captivating view of its complexity. However, deciphering the relationship between metabolic structure and function remains a major challenge. In particular, turning observed structural regularities into organizing principles underlying systemic functions is a crucial task that can be significantly addressed after endowing complex network representations of metabolism with the notion of geometric distance. Here, we design a cartographic map of metabolic networks by embedding them into a simple geometry that provides a natural explanation for their observed network topology and that codifies node proximity as a measure of hidden structural similarities. We assume a simple and general connectivity law that gives more probability of interaction to metabolite/reaction pairs which are closer in the hidden space. Remarkably, we find an astonishing congruency between the architecture of E. coli and human cellmetabolisms and the underlying geometry. In addition, the formalism unveils a backbone-like structure of connected biochemical pathways on the basis of a quantitative cross-talk. Pathways thus acquire a new perspective which challenges their classical view as self-contained functional units.
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