Isotope labeling networks (ILNs) are graphs explaining the flow of isotope labeled molecules in a metabolic network. Moreover, they are the structural backbone of metabolic flux analysis (MFA) by isotopic tracers which has been established as a standard experimental tool in fluxomics. To configure an isotope labeling experiment (ILE) for MFA, the structure of the corresponding ILN must be understood to a certain extent even by a practitioner. Graph algorithms help to analyze the network structure but produce rather abstract results. Here, the major obstruction is the high dimension of these networks and the large number of network components which, consequently, are hard to figure out manually. At the interface between theory and experiment, the three-dimensional interactive visualization tool CumoVis has been developed for exploring the network structure in a step by step manner. Navigation and orientation within ILNs are supported by exploiting the natural 3D structure of an underlying metabolite network with stacked labeled particles on top of each metabolite node. Network exploration is facilitated by rotating, zooming, forward and backward path tracing and, most important, network component reduction. All features of CumoVis are explained with an educational example and a realistic network describing carbon flow in the citric acid cycle.
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