Basic Tutorial

Import RoadRunner

To startup RoadRunner use the commands at the Python prompt:

import roadrunner
rr = roadrunner.RoadRunner()

The variable rr is your reference to roadrunner. Anything you want to do with roadrunner must be specified using the variable rr.

To get the current version of libRoadRunner type the following:


Loading Models

RoadRunner reads models using the SBML format. If you have a SBML model stored on your hard drive, it is possible to load that model either by giving he document contents or path to the Roadrunner constructor, or later by using the method, load(). Let’s assume you have a model called mymodel.xml in C:\MyModels. To load this model in Windows we would use the command:

rr = roadrunner.RoadRunner("C:/MyModels/mymodel.xml")

Note, Windows typically used the back slash, ‘\’ to indicate a directory separator, however in most languages including python, this is the escape character, therefore one can also enter Windows paths using the forward slash ‘/’ which does not cause issues. If one want to use the backslash, these must be typed twice, i.e. 'C:\\MyModels\\mymodel.xml'.

On the Mac or Linux we might use:

rr = roadrunner.RoadRunner("/home/MyModels/mymodel.xml")

RoadRunner can also load models directly from a URL via:

rr = roadrunner.RoadRunner("")

If the model was loaded successfully, the RoadRunner object is now ready to use, otherwise an exception will be raised that contains extended information detailing exactly what failed. If any warnings are found in the SBML document, these will be displayed in the console error log.

Additionally, there are a couple models included with libRoadRunner. The models feedback.xml and Test_1.xml are available in the roadrunner.testing module. To access these use:

import roadrunner.testing as test
r = test.getRoadRunner('feedback.xml')

There are a few additional models in the models/ directory of the distribution, where you installed libRoadRunner.

Running Simulations

Once a model is successfully loaded we can run a time course simulation. To run a simulation we use the simulate() method:

result = rr.simulate()

The output will be in a Python numpy array. The first column will contain time points and the remaining columns will include all the floating species amounts/concentrations. In the simulate method we didn’t specify how long to run the simulation or how many points to generate. By default the starting time is set to zero, ending time to 10 and the number of points to 51. There are two ways to set these values. The easiest way is to change the positional arguments in simulate() in the following manner:

result = rr.simulate (0, 10, 100)

This will set the starting time to zero, the ending time to 10 and generate 100 points. This means that the result will be out in time intervals of 1/99.

The simulate method also accepts the steps keyword argument instead of points:

result = rr.simulate(0, 10, steps=99)

For more details of the simulate method see simulate(). The following table summarizes the various options.

Option Description
start Starting time for simulation
end Ending time for simulation. Setting ‘end’ will automatically change ‘duration’
points Number of rows to include in the output matrix
selections (Optional) A list of variables to include in the output, e.g. ['time','A'] for a model with species A. More below.
steps (Optional keyword argument) Number of steps at which the output is sampled where the samples are evenly spaced. Steps = points-1. Steps and points may not both be specified.

One important point to note about simulate(): When simulate() is run, the concentration of the floating species will naturally change. If simulate() is called a second time, the simulation will start the simulation from the previous simulated values. This can be used to easily follow on simulations. However there will be times when we wish to run the same simulation again but perhaps with slightly different parameters values. For this we must reset the initial conditions back to the original values. To do that we run the command reset():


Changing Parameters

Often during a modeling experiment we will need to change parameter values, that is the values of the various kinetic constants in the model. If a model has a kinetic constants k1, then we can change or inspect the value using the following syntax:

print rr.k1
rr.k1 = 1.2

Selecting Simulation Output

RoadRunner supports a range of options for selecting what data a simulation should return. For more detailed information on selections, see the Selecting Values section.

The simulate method, by default returns an structured array, which are arrays that also contain column names. These can be plotted directly using the built in plot() function, or by adding the plot=True keyword argument to simulate().

The output selections default to time and the set of floating species. It is possible to change the simulation result values by changing the selection list. For example assume that a model has three species, S1, S2, and S3 but we only want simulate() to return time in the first column and S2 in the second column. To specify this we would type:

rr.timeCourseSelections = ['time', 'S2']
result = rr.simulate (0, 10, 100)

In another example let say we wanted to plot a phase plot where S1 is plotted against S2. To do this we type the following:

rr.timeCourseSelections = ['S1', 'S2']
result = rr.simulate(0, 10, 100)

Some additional examples include:

# Select time and two rates of change (dS1/dt and dS2/dt) rr.timeCourseSelections = [‘time, ‘S1’‘’, ‘S2’‘’]

# By default species names yield amounts, concentrations can be obtained # using square brackets, e.g. rr.timeCourseSelections = [‘time’, ‘[S1]’, ‘[S2]’]

See also

More details on Selecting Values

Plotting Data

RoadRunner has a built in plot() method which can perform basic plotting. Simply call:

result = rr.simulate(0, 10, 100)


rr.simulate(0, 10, 100, plot=True)

If one wants more control over the data plots, one may use matplotlib directly. Assuming the simulate returns an array called result, and that the first column represents the x axis and the remaining columns the y axis, we type:

import pylab
pylab.plot (result[:,0],result[:,1:])

This will bring up a new window showing the plot. To clear the plot for next time, type the command:


One may also override the built in plot() method with a more more capable plotting routine

Below is a simplified version of the plot() method. You may copy and write a customized version and even attach it to the RoadRunner object. The first argument is a RoadRunner object instance, and the second is a flag which tells the method to show the plot or not:

def plot(r, show=True):

    import pylab as p

    result = self.getSimulationData()

    if result is None:
        raise Exception("no simulation result")

    # assume result is a standard numpy array

    selections = r.timeCourseSelections

    if len(result.shape) != 2 or result.shape[1] != len(selections):
        raise Exception("simulation result columns not equal to number of selections,"
                        "likely a simulation has not been run")

    times = result[:,0]

    for i in range(1, len(selections)):
        series = result[:,i]
        name = selections[i]
        p.plot(times, series, label=str(name))


    if show:

You can attach your plotting function to the RoadRunner object by simply setting the plot method:

def my_plot(r, show):

import roadrunner
roadrunner.RoadRunner.plot = my_plot

Now, whenever the plot() method is called, your plot function will be the one that is invoked.

Changing Initial Conditions

There are a number of methods to get and set the initial conditions of a loaded model. In order to specify a given initial conditions we use the notation, init(). The values stored in the initial conditions are applied to the model whenever it is reset. The list of all initial condition symbols can be obtained by the methods, getFloatingSpeciesInitAmountIds() and getFloatingSpeciesInitConcentrationIds() assuming r is a RoadRunner instance. As with all other selection symbols, the keys() returns all available selection symbols:

>>>  r.model.keys()
[ 'S1', 'S2', '[S1]', '[S2]', 'compartment', 'k1', 'cm0',
  'reaction1',  'init([S1])',  'init([S2])', 'init(S1)',
  'init(S2)',  "S1'"]

Symbols for selecting initial values specifically for amounts and concentrations can be obtained via:

>>> r.model.getFloatingSpeciesInitAmountIds()
['init(S1)', 'init(S2)']
>>> r.model.getFloatingSpeciesInitConcentrationIds()
['init([S1])', 'init([S2])']

Getting or setting initial values is easily accomplished using the array operator and the selection symbols:

>>> r.model["init(S1)"]
>>> r.model["init([S1])"]
>>> r.model["init([S1])"] = 2
>>> r.model["init(S1)"]

The values for the initial conditions for all floating species can be obtained using the calls:

>>> r.model.getFloatingSpeciesInitConcentrations()
array([ 0.7,  5.6])

Initial conditions can be set using the two methods for all species in one call:

>>> r.model.setFloatingSpeciesInitAmounts ([3.4, 5.6])
>>> r.model.setFloatingSpeciesInitConcentrations ([6.7, 0.1])


RoadRunner has multiple types of solvers including integrators and steady-state solvers. Integrators control numerical timecourse integration via the simulate() method. By default, RoadRunner uses CVODE, a real differential equation solver from the SUNDIALS suite. Internally, CVODE features an adaptive timestep. However, unless variableStep is specified in the call to simulate(), the output will contain evenly spaced intervals.

>>>  r.simulate(0, 10, 10)
# Output will contain evenly spaced intervals
>>>  r.simulate(variableStep=True)
# Intervals will vary according to CVODE step size

To use basic 4th-order Runge-Kutta integrator (‘rk4’), call setIntegrator():

>>>  r.setIntegrator('rk4')

Runge-Kutta always uses a fixed step size, and does not support events. RoadRunner supports Runge-Kutta-Fehlberg Method (‘rkf45’) as well as a stochastic integrator based on Gillespie algorithm (‘gilliespie’). To get a list of all available integrators, run:

>>>  r.integrators
['cvode', 'gillespie', 'rk4', 'rk45']

Some integrators, such as CVODE, have parameters which can be set by the user. To see a list of these settings, use getSettings() on an integrator instance:

>>>  r.getIntegrator().getSettings()

To set a parameter, you can use both methods described below:

>>>  r.getIntegrator().relative_tolerance = 1e-10
>>>  r.getIntegrator().setValue('relative_tolerance', 1e-10)

Be sure to set the parameter to the correct type, which can be obtained from the parameter’s hint or description:

>>>  r.getIntegrator().getHint('relative_tolerance')
'Specifies the scalar relative tolerance (double).'
>>>  r.getIntegrator().getDescription('relative_tolerance')
'(double) CVODE calculates a vector of error weights which is used in all error and convergence tests. The weighted RMS norm for the relative tolerance should not become smaller than this value.'

Parameters also have a display name:

>>>  r.getIntegrator().getDisplayName('relative_tolerance')
'Relative Tolerance'

If you prefer to change settings on integrators without switching the current integrator, you can use getIntegratorByName() as follows:

>>>  r.getIntegratorByName('gillespie').seed = 12345

Also, if you find yourself switching back and forth between integrators a lot, you can use setIntegratorSetting().

>>>  r.setIntegratorSetting('gillespie', 'seed', 12345)

The other type of solver is a steady-state solver, which works in essentially the same way:

>>>  r.getSteadyStateSolver().getSettings()
>>>  r.getSteadyStateSolver().getHint('maximum_iterations')
'The maximum number of iterations the solver is allowed to use (int)'
>>>  r.getSteadyStateSolver().getDescription('maximum_iterations')
'(int) Iteration caps off at the maximum, regardless of whether a solution has been reached'

The steady state solver is invoked by a call to steadyState(). Currently, RoadRunner only has a single steady state solver (NLEQ).