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Short Description
PHOsphoproteomic dissecTiOn using Networks
Full Description

Elucidation of Signaling Pathways from Large-Scale Phosphoproteomic Data Using Protein Interaction Networks

Phosphoproteomic experiments typically identify sites within a protein that are differentially phosphorylated between two or more cell states. However, the interpretation of these data is hampered by the lack of methods that can translate site-specific information into global maps of active proteins and signaling networks, especially as the phosphoproteome is often undersampled. Here, we describe PHOTON, a method for interpreting phosphorylation data within their signaling context, as captured by protein-protein interaction networks, to identify active proteins and pathways and pinpoint functional phosphosites. We apply PHOTON to interpret existing and novel phosphoproteomic datasets related to epidermal growth factor and insulin responses. PHOTON substantially outperforms the widely used cutoff approach, providing highly reproducible predictions that are more in line with current biological knowledge. Altogether, PHOTON overcomes the fundamental challenge of delineating signaling pathways from large-scale phosphoproteomic data, thereby enabling translation of environmental cues to downstream cellular responses.

Pubmed link

Output description

A zip archive containing several output tables can be downloaded from the results page of PHOTON.

  1. subnet.csv: edges of the reconstructed signaling network. This is a sub-network of the input network (which is located at /db/anat/ The subnet.csv file can be e.g. imported into Cytoscape for further analysis.
  2. scores.csv: signaling functionality scores devised by PHOTON. The 'Significant' column allows for easy filtering of the table. The other columns provide more detail on each step of the algorithm, i.e. calculating an empirical score, obtaining p-values, and finally FDR-corrected q-values.
  3. go_scores.csv: details all GO annotation enrichment results for the reconstructed network. Filtering for the 'rejected' column (=1) will yield all sign. enriched categories. The naming of the other columns follows the convention of the statistical test used.
  4. predictions.csv: contains information regarding the functional phosphorylation site prediction. The 'proba' column is the prediction score for each site. If the phosphorylation site was part of the training set the 'label' column will be 'TRUE'. One should take special care when the training set was small, i.e. few sites with 'label' set to TRUE are in the data set.

My result graph contains only a sigle node '-1'

Sometimes PHOTON will not yield any results. Known technical sources of failure are:

  1. The ANAT service is down. PHOTON relies on the ANAT web server which can be down for various reasons. Before reporting an error with PHOTON, please confirm that the Cytoscape plugin for ANAT is working as expected. Please note that you might still download the resulting activity scores derived by PHOTON.

Common errors when running PHOTON

  1. Uploading a data file which is not ASCII encoded might yield errors such as

     'utf-8' codec can't decode byte 0xa0 in position 0: invalid start byte

    Converting the file to ASCII will fix this issue.

  2. There is a popup with a long error message similar to


    This error messages is due to the ANAT web server not being available.
    Please confirm that the Cytoscape plugin for ANAT is working as expected before reporting an error for PHOTON.
    Please contact me or the authors of ANAT in case of errors.


PHOTON runs inside a 'container' and therefore requires docker to run across all platforms.
General information regarding the installation of docker can be
found on the docker website.

Running PHOTON

Docker Toolbox (Windows, Mac)

First open the Docker Quickstart Terminal. After initialization (can take some time),
denote the IP address of docker (under the whale image).
Now you can run PHOTON by entering:

docker run -d -p 5000:5000 jdrudolph/photon

Now you can access PHOTON from your browser under the IP address
of docker followed by colon and 5000. For example
Alternatively you can lookup the IP address using docker-machine ip default.

Docker for Windows / Linux

Open a Powershell (terminal in linux) and run:

docker run -d -p 5000:5000 jdrudolph/photon

Now you can access PHOTON from your browser.

Native Linux (Experts)

Consult the Dockerfile on how to run PHOTON on Linux natively.

Stopping PHOTON

First list all running containers:

docker ps

Lookup the name of the container (last column) and stop it using

docker stop name_of_container

Updating PHOTON

New versions of docker can be downloaded by running

docker pull jdrudolph/photon

before issuing the run command as shown above.


Please open an issue here, or
contact me directly if you have issues with installing or using PHOTON.


If the current licencing (see LICENCE.txt) does not suit your needs,
please contacte me for alternative licencing options.

PHOTON data format example

Docker Pull Command
Source Repository

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