Systems Biology Graphical Notation

The Systems Biology Graphical Notation (SBGN), is a set standard graphical languages to describe biological knowledge. It is currently made up of three languages describing Process Descriptions, Entity Relationships and Activity Flows.

Normative definitions

SBGN is defined by the a set of specification documents, that define the symbols used in the languages, and the rules to assemble them in maps. The latest specifications are:


SBGN development is coordinated by an editorial board elected by the community, and a scientific committee made up of PIs of SBGN supporting grants and invited members.


SBGN development is discussed through SBGN-discuss forum.

Software support

Several data resources and software claim support for SBGN. This includes an API is also available to help implementing support: libSBGN.


For information about SBGN itself, contact sbgn-discuss google group. For information about SBGN development and governance, contact [].

How to cite SBGN

Le Novère N., Hucka M., Mi H., Moodie S., Schreiber F., Sorokin A., Demir E., Wegner K., Aladjem M., Wimalaratne S., Bergman F.T., Gauges R., Ghazal P., Kawaji H., Li L., Matsuoka Y., Villéger A., Boyd S.E., Calzone L., Courtot M., Dogrusoz U., Freeman T., Funahashi A., Ghosh S., Jouraku A., Kim S., Kolpakov F., Luna A., Sahle S., Schmidt E., Watterson S., Goryanin I., Kell D.B., Sander C., Sauro H., Snoep J.L., Kohn K., Kitano H. The Systems Biology Graphical Notation. Nature Biotechnology (2009), 27: 735-741.


The development of SBGN was initiated by Hiroaki Kitano, supported by a funding from the Japanese New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization. The meeting that kicked off the development of the Systems Biology Graphical Notation took place on February 11–12, 2006, at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), in Tokyo, Japan.

The first specification of SBGN Process Description language – then called Process Diagrams – was released on August 23, 2008 (Level 1 Version 1). Corrections of the document were released on September 1, 2009 (Level 1 Version 1.1), October 3, 2010 (Level 1 Version 1.2) and February 14, 2011 (Level 1 Version 1.3).

The first specification of SBGN Entity relationship language was released on September 1, 2009 (Level 1 Version 1). Corrections of the document were released on October 6, 2010 (Level 1 Version 1.1), April 14, 2011 (Level 1 Version 1.2) and August 08, 2015 (Level 1 Version 2).

The first specification of SBGN Activity Flow language was released on September 1, 2009 (Level 1 Version 1.0). Corrections of the document were released on July 27, 2015 (Level 1 Version 1.2)