Comparative analysis of metabolic pathways in different genomes yields important information on their evolution, on pharmacological targets and on biotechnological applications. In this study on glycolysis, three alternative ways of comparing biochemical pathways are combined: (1) analysis and comparison of biochemical data, (2) pathway analysis based on the concept of elementary modes, and (3) a comparative genome analysis of 17 completely sequenced genomes. The analysis reveals a surprising plasticity of the glycolytic pathway. Isoenzymes in different species are identified and compared; deviations from the textbook standard are detailed. Several potential pharmacological targets and by-passes (such as the Entner-Doudoroff pathway) to glycolysis are examined and compared in the different species. Archaean, bacterial and parasite specific adaptations are identified and described.