Despite extensive study of individual enzymes and their organization into pathways, the means by which enzyme networks control metabolite concentrations and fluxes in cells remains incompletely understood. Here, we examine the integrated regulation of central nitrogen metabolism in Escherichia coli through metabolomics and ordinary-differential-equation-based modeling. Metabolome changes triggered by modulating extracellular ammonium centered around two key intermediates in nitrogen assimilation, α-ketoglutarate and glutamine. Many other compounds retained concentration homeostasis, indicating isolation of concentration changes within a subset of the metabolome closely linked to the nutrient perturbation. In contrast to the view that saturated enzymes are insensitive to substrate concentration, competition for the active sites of saturated enzymes was found to be a key determinant of enzyme fluxes. Combined with covalent modification reactions controlling glutamine synthetase activity, such active-site competition was sufficient to explain and predict the complex dynamic response patterns of central nitrogen metabolites.
active-site competition; flux regulation; HPLC-MS; metabolic dynamics; predictive model
The dynamic features of a genetic network's response to environmental fluctuations represent essential functional specifications and thus may constrain the possible choices of network architecture and kinetic parameters. To explore the connection between dynamics and network design, we have analyzed a general regulatory architecture that is commonly found in many metabolic pathways. Such architecture is characterized by a dual control mechanism, with end product feedback inhibition and transcriptional regulation mediated by an intermediate metabolite. As a case study, we measured with high temporal resolution the induction profiles of the enzymes in the leucine biosynthetic pathway in response to leucine depletion, using an automated system for monitoring protein expression levels in single cells. All the genes in the pathway are known to be coregulated by the same transcription factors, but we observed drastically different dynamic responses for enzymes upstream and immediately downstream of the key control point—the intermediate metabolite α-isopropylmalate (αIPM), which couples metabolic activity to transcriptional regulation. Analysis based on genetic perturbations suggests that the observed dynamics are due to differential regulation by the leucine branch-specific transcription factor Leu3, and that the downstream enzymes are strictly controlled and highly expressed only when αIPM is available. These observations allow us to build a simplified mathematical model that accounts for the observed dynamics and can correctly predict the pathway's response to new perturbations. Our model also suggests that transient dynamics and steady state can be separately tuned and that the high induction levels of the downstream enzymes are necessary for fast leucine recovery. It is likely that principles emerging from this work can reveal how gene regulation has evolved to optimize performance in other metabolic pathways with similar architecture.
Single-cell organisms must constantly adjust their gene expression programs to survive in a changing environment. Interactions between different molecules form a regulatory network to mediate these changes. While the network connections are often known, figuring out how the network responds dynamically by looking at a static picture of its structure presents a significant challenge. Measuring the response at a finer time scales could reveal the link between the network's function and its structure. The architecture of the system we studied in this work—the leucine biosynthesis pathway in yeast—is shared by other metabolic pathways: a metabolic intermediate binds to a transcription factor to activate the pathway genes, creating an intricate feedback structure that links metabolism with gene expression. We measured protein abundance at high temporal resolution for genes in this pathway in response to leucine depletion and studied the effects of various genetic perturbations on gene expression dynamics. Our measurements and theoretical modeling show that only the genes immediately downstream from the intermediate are highly regulated by the metabolite, a feature that is essential to fast recovery from leucine depletion. Since the architecture we studied is common, we believe that our work may lead to general principles governing the dynamics of gene expression in other metabolic pathways.
A quantitative, high-temporal resolution study of gene induction in a metabolic pathway reveals an intricate connection between the regulatory architecture and the dynamic response of the system, pointing to possible principles underlying the design of these pathways.
A grand challenge in synthetic biology is to push the design of biomolecular circuits from purely genetic constructs towards systems that interface different levels of the cellular machinery, including signalling networks and metabolic pathways. In this paper, we focus on a genetic circuit for feedback regulation of unbranched metabolic pathways. The objective of this feedback system is to dampen the effect of flux perturbations caused by changes in cellular demands or by engineered pathways consuming metabolic intermediates. We consider a mathematical model for a control circuit with an operon architecture, whereby the expression of all pathway enzymes is transcriptionally repressed by the metabolic product. We address the existence and stability of the steady state, the dynamic response of the network under perturbations, and their dependence on common tuneable knobs such as the promoter characteristic and ribosome binding site (RBS) strengths. Our analysis reveals trade-offs between the steady state of the enzymes and the intermediates, together with a separation principle between promoter and RBS design. We show that enzymatic saturation imposes limits on the parameter design space, which must be satisfied to prevent metabolite accumulation and guarantee the stability of the network. The use of promoters with a broad dynamic range and a small leaky expression enlarges the design space. Simulation results with realistic parameter values also suggest that the control circuit can effectively upregulate enzyme production to compensate flux perturbations.
metabolic control; operon regulation; feedback control design
Constraint-based modeling uses mass balances, flux capacity, and reaction directionality constraints to predict fluxes through metabolism. Although transcriptional regulation and thermodynamic constraints have been integrated into constraint-based modeling, kinetic rate laws have not been extensively used.
In this study, an in vivo kinetic parameter estimation problem was formulated and solved using multi-omic data sets for Escherichia coli. To narrow the confidence intervals for kinetic parameters, a series of kinetic model simplifications were made, resulting in fewer kinetic parameters than the full kinetic model. These new parameter values are able to account for flux and concentration data from 20 different experimental conditions used in our training dataset. Concentration estimates from the simplified kinetic model were within one standard deviation for 92.7% of the 790 experimental measurements in the training set. Gibbs free energy changes of reaction were calculated to identify reactions that were often operating close to or far from equilibrium. In addition, enzymes whose activities were positively or negatively influenced by metabolite concentrations were also identified. The kinetic model was then used to calculate the maximum and minimum possible flux values for individual reactions from independent metabolite and enzyme concentration data that were not used to estimate parameter values. Incorporating these kinetically-derived flux limits into the constraint-based metabolic model improved predictions for uptake and secretion rates and intracellular fluxes in constraint-based models of central metabolism.
This study has produced a method for in vivo kinetic parameter estimation and identified strategies and outcomes of kinetic model simplification. We also have illustrated how kinetic constraints can be used to improve constraint-based model predictions for intracellular fluxes and biomass yield and identify potential metabolic limitations through the integrated analysis of multi-omics datasets.
Metabolic engineering; Kinetics; Central metabolism; Constraint-based; FBA
Microorganisms are used as cell factories to produce valuable compounds in pharmaceuticals, biofuels, and other industrial processes. Incorporating heterologous metabolic pathways into well-characterized hosts is a major strategy for obtaining these target metabolites and improving productivity. However, selecting appropriate heterologous metabolic pathways for a host microorganism remains difficult owing to the complexity of metabolic networks. Hence, metabolic network design could benefit greatly from the availability of an in silico platform for heterologous pathway searching.
We developed an algorithm for finding feasible heterologous pathways by which nonnative target metabolites are produced by host microorganisms, using Escherichia coli, Corynebacterium glutamicum, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae as templates. Using this algorithm, we screened heterologous pathways for the production of all possible nonnative target metabolites contained within databases. We then assessed the feasibility of the target productions using flux balance analysis, by which we could identify target metabolites associated with maximum cellular growth rate.
This in silico platform, designed for targeted searching of heterologous metabolic reactions, provides essential information for cell factory improvement.
Targeting persistent tubercule bacilli has become an important challenge in the development of anti-tuberculous drugs. As the glyoxylate bypass is essential for persistent bacilli, interference with it holds the potential for designing new antibacterial drugs. We have developed kinetic models of the tricarboxylic acid cycle and glyoxylate bypass in Escherichia coli and Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and studied the effects of inhibition of various enzymes in the M. tuberculosis model.
We used E. coli to validate the pathway-modeling protocol and showed that changes in metabolic flux can be estimated from gene expression data. The M. tuberculosis model reproduced the observation that deletion of one of the two isocitrate lyase genes has little effect on bacterial growth in macrophages, but deletion of both genes leads to the elimination of the bacilli from the lungs. It also substantiated the inhibition of isocitrate lyases by 3-nitropropionate. On the basis of our simulation studies, we propose that: (i) fractional inactivation of both isocitrate dehydrogenase 1 and isocitrate dehydrogenase 2 is required for a flux through the glyoxylate bypass in persistent mycobacteria; and (ii) increasing the amount of active isocitrate dehydrogenases can stop the flux through the glyoxylate bypass, so the kinase that inactivates isocitrate dehydrogenase 1 and/or the proposed inactivator of isocitrate dehydrogenase 2 is a potential target for drugs against persistent mycobacteria. In addition, competitive inhibition of isocitrate lyases along with a reduction in the inactivation of isocitrate dehydrogenases appears to be a feasible strategy for targeting persistent mycobacteria.
We used kinetic modeling of biochemical pathways to assess various potential anti-tuberculous drug targets that interfere with the glyoxylate bypass flux, and indicated the type of inhibition needed to eliminate the pathogen. The advantage of such an approach to the assessment of drug targets is that it facilitates the study of systemic effect(s) of the modulation of the target enzyme(s) in the cellular environment.
Genome sequencing and bioinformatics are producing detailed lists of the molecular components contained in many prokaryotic organisms. From this 'parts catalogue' of a microbial cell, in silico representations of integrated metabolic functions can be constructed and analyzed using flux balance analysis (FBA). FBA is particularly well-suited to study metabolic networks based on genomic, biochemical, and strain specific information.
Herein, we have utilized FBA to interpret and analyze the metabolic capabilities of Escherichia coli. We have computationally mapped the metabolic capabilities of E. coli using FBA and examined the optimal utilization of the E. coli metabolic pathways as a function of environmental variables. We have used an in silico analysis to identify seven gene products of central metabolism (glycolysis, pentose phosphate pathway, TCA cycle, electron transport system) essential for aerobic growth of E. coli on glucose minimal media, and 15 gene products essential for anaerobic growth on glucose minimal media. The in silico tpi-, zwf, and pta- mutant strains were examined in more detail by mapping the capabilities of these in silico isogenic strains.
We found that computational models of E. coli metabolism based on physicochemical constraints can be used to interpret mutant behavior. These in silica results lead to a further understanding of the complex genotype-phenotype relation.
Translating a known metabolic network into a dynamic model requires reasonable guesses of all enzyme parameters. In Bayesian parameter estimation, model parameters are described by a posterior probability distribution, which scores the potential parameter sets, showing how well each of them agrees with the data and with the prior assumptions made.
We compute posterior distributions of kinetic parameters within a Bayesian framework, based on integration of kinetic, thermodynamic, metabolic, and proteomic data. The structure of the metabolic system (i.e., stoichiometries and enzyme regulation) needs to be known, and the reactions are modelled by convenience kinetics with thermodynamically independent parameters. The parameter posterior is computed in two separate steps: a first posterior summarises the available data on enzyme kinetic parameters; an improved second posterior is obtained by integrating metabolic fluxes, concentrations, and enzyme concentrations for one or more steady states. The data can be heterogenous, incomplete, and uncertain, and the posterior is approximated by a multivariate log-normal distribution. We apply the method to a model of the threonine synthesis pathway: the integration of metabolic data has little effect on the marginal posterior distributions of individual model parameters. Nevertheless, it leads to strong correlations between the parameters in the joint posterior distribution, which greatly improve the model predictions by the following Monte-Carlo simulations.
We present a standardised method to translate metabolic networks into dynamic models. To determine the model parameters, evidence from various experimental data is combined and weighted using Bayesian parameter estimation. The resulting posterior parameter distribution describes a statistical ensemble of parameter sets; the parameter variances and correlations can account for missing knowledge, measurement uncertainties, or biological variability. The posterior distribution can be used to sample model instances and to obtain probabilistic statements about the model's dynamic behaviour.
Even though transcriptional regulation plays a key role in establishing the metabolic network, the extent to which it actually controls the in vivo distribution of metabolic fluxes through different pathways is essentially unknown. Based on metabolism-wide quantification of intracellular fluxes, we systematically elucidated the relevance of global transcriptional regulation by ArcA, ArcB, Cra, Crp, Cya, Fnr, and Mlc for aerobic glucose catabolism in batch cultures of Escherichia coli. Knockouts of ArcB, Cra, Fnr, and Mlc were phenotypically silent, while deletion of the catabolite repression regulators Crp and Cya resulted in a pronounced slow-growth phenotype but had only a nonspecific effect on the actual flux distribution. Knockout of ArcA-dependent redox regulation, however, increased the aerobic tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle activity by over 60%. Like aerobic conditions, anaerobic derepression of TCA cycle enzymes in an ArcA mutant significantly increased the in vivo TCA flux when nitrate was present as an electron acceptor. The in vivo and in vitro data demonstrate that ArcA-dependent transcriptional regulation directly or indirectly controls TCA cycle flux in both aerobic and anaerobic glucose batch cultures of E. coli. This control goes well beyond the previously known ArcA-dependent regulation of the TCA cycle during microaerobiosis.
Amino-acid producers have traditionally been developed by repeated random mutagenesis owing to the difficulty in rationally engineering the complex and highly regulated metabolic network. Here, we report the development of the genetically defined L-threonine overproducing Escherichia coli strain by systems metabolic engineering. Feedback inhibitions of aspartokinase I and III (encoded by thrA and lysC, respectively) and transcriptional attenuation regulations (located in thrL) were removed. Pathways for Thr degradation were removed by deleting tdh and mutating ilvA. The metA and lysA genes were deleted to make more precursors available for Thr biosynthesis. Further target genes to be engineered were identified by transcriptome profiling combined with in silico flux response analysis, and their expression levels were manipulated accordingly. The final engineered E. coli strain was able to produce Thr with a high yield of 0.393 g per gram of glucose, and 82.4 g/l Thr by fed-batch culture. The systems metabolic engineering strategy reported here may be broadly employed for developing genetically defined organisms for the efficient production of various bioproducts.
amino-acid production; flux response analysis; metabolic engineering; systems biology; transcriptome analysis
Temperature is a global factor that affects the performance of all intracellular networks. Robustness against temperature variations is thus expected to be an essential network property, particularly in organisms without inherent temperature control. Here we combine experimental analyses with computer modeling to investigate thermal robustness of signaling in chemotaxis of Escherichia coli, a relatively simple and well-established model for systems biology. We show that steady-state and kinetic pathway parameters that are essential for chemotactic performance are indeed temperature-compensated in the entire physiological range. Thermal robustness of steady-state pathway output is ensured at several levels by mutual compensation of temperature effects on activities of individual pathway components. Moreover, the effect of temperature on adaptation kinetics is counterbalanced by pre-programmed temperature dependence of enzyme synthesis and stability to achieve nearly optimal performance at the growth temperature. Similar compensatory mechanisms are expected to ensure thermal robustness in other systems.
The genetic and molecular approaches to heterosis usually do not rely on any model of the genotype–phenotype relationship. From the generalization of Kacser and Burns’ biochemical model for dominance and epistasis to networks with several variable enzymes, we hypothesized that metabolic heterosis could be observed because the response of the flux towards enzyme activities and/or concentrations follows a multi-dimensional hyperbolic-like relationship. To corroborate this, we used the values of systemic parameters accounting for the kinetic behaviour of four enzymes of the upstream part of glycolysis, and simulated genetic variability by varying in silico enzyme concentrations. Then we “crossed” virtual parents to get 1,000 hybrids, and showed that best-parent heterosis was frequently observed. The decomposition of the flux value into genetic effects, with the help of a novel multilocus epistasis index, revealed that antagonistic additive-by-additive epistasis effects play the major role in this framework of the genotype–phenotype relationship. This result is consistent with various observations in quantitative and evolutionary genetics, and provides a model unifying the genetic effects underlying heterosis.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00122-009-1203-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Cellular signaling networks have evolved an astonishing ability to function reliably and with high fidelity in uncertain environments. A crucial prerequisite for the high precision exhibited by many signaling circuits is their ability to keep the concentrations of active signaling compounds within tightly defined bounds, despite strong stochastic fluctuations in copy numbers and other detrimental influences. Based on a simple mathematical formalism, we identify topological organizing principles that facilitate such robust control of intracellular concentrations in the face of multifarious perturbations. Our framework allows us to judge whether a multiple-input-multiple-output reaction network is robust against large perturbations of network parameters and enables the predictive design of perfectly robust synthetic network architectures. Utilizing the Escherichia coli chemotaxis pathway as a hallmark example, we provide experimental evidence that our framework indeed allows us to unravel the topological organization of robust signaling. We demonstrate that the specific organization of the pathway allows the system to maintain global concentration robustness of the diffusible response regulator CheY with respect to several dominant perturbations. Our framework provides a counterpoint to the hypothesis that cellular function relies on an extensive machinery to fine-tune or control intracellular parameters. Rather, we suggest that for a large class of perturbations, there exists an appropriate topology that renders the network output invariant to the respective perturbations.
Cellular signaling networks have to function reliably and with high fidelity in an uncertain environment. In this paper, we investigate the topological principles to achieve such robust signal processing in living cells. Specifically, we identify the topological organizing principles that enable a signaling network to keep the stationary intracellular concentrations of certain molecules, such as active signaling compounds, within tightly defined bounds – despite conditions of uncertainty and in the face of multiple perturbations. We demonstrate that an appropriate topological organization renders the output of the pathway invariant against a large class of possible detrimental fluctuations, such as changes in energy states or total protein concentrations. Furthermore, we show that the topological requirements for robust signal processing can be formalized in terms of a linear vector space, denoted as invariant perturbation space, that predicts the robustness properties of the network. Constructing this invariant perturbation space for the Escherichia coli chemotaxis pathway reveals that the pathway is indeed invariant with respect to most dominant perturbations that would otherwise significantly hamper information transmission. Our framework provides a counterpoint to the hypothesis that cellular function relies on an extensive machinery to fine-tune or control intracellular parameters.
During anaerobic growth of Escherichia coli, pyruvate formate-lyase (PFL) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) channel pyruvate toward a mixture of fermentation products. We have introduced a third branch at the pyruvate node in a mutant of E. coli with a mutation in pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH*) that renders the enzyme less sensitive to inhibition by NADH. The key starting enzymes of the three branches at the pyruvate node in such a mutant, PDH*, PFL, and LDH, have different metabolic potentials and kinetic properties. In such a mutant (strain QZ2), pyruvate flux through LDH was about 30%, with the remainder of the flux occurring through PFL, indicating that LDH is a preferred route of pyruvate conversion over PDH*. In a pfl mutant (strain YK167) with both PDH* and LDH activities, flux through PDH* was about 33% of the total, confirming the ability of LDH to outcompete the PDH pathway for pyruvate in vivo. Only in the absence of LDH (strain QZ3) was pyruvate carbon equally distributed between the PDH* and PFL pathways. A pfl mutant with LDH and PDH* activities, as well as a pfl ldh double mutant with PDH* activity, had a surprisingly low cell yield per mole of ATP (YATP) (about 7.0 g of cells per mol of ATP) compared to 10.9 g of cells per mol of ATP for the wild type. The lower YATP suggests the operation of a futile energy cycle in the absence of PFL in this strain. An understanding of the controls at the pyruvate node during anaerobic growth is expected to provide unique insights into rational metabolic engineering of E. coli and related bacteria for the production of various biobased products at high rates and yields.
Viral replication relies on host metabolic machinery and precursors to produce large numbers of progeny - often very rapidly. A fundamental example is the infection of Escherichia coli by bacteriophage T7. The resource draw imposed by viral replication represents a significant and complex perturbation to the extensive and interconnected network of host metabolic pathways. To better understand this system, we have integrated a set of structured ordinary differential equations quantifying T7 replication and an E. coli flux balance analysis metabolic model. Further, we present here an integrated simulation algorithm enforcing mutual constraint by the models across the entire duration of phage replication. This method enables quantitative dynamic prediction of virion production given only specification of host nutritional environment, and predictions compare favorably to experimental measurements of phage replication in multiple environments. The level of detail of our computational predictions facilitates exploration of the dynamic changes in host metabolic fluxes that result from viral resource consumption, as well as analysis of the limiting processes dictating maximum viral progeny production. For example, although it is commonly assumed that viral infection dynamics are predominantly limited by the amount of protein synthesis machinery in the host, our results suggest that in many cases metabolic limitation is at least as strict. Taken together, these results emphasize the importance of considering viral infections in the context of host metabolism.
Viral infection is a serious problem with relatively few known solutions. Much of the complexity of viral infection is contributed by the host's own resources that the virus commandeers. Viruses lack the machinery and precursors required to replicate, and thus may be considered metabolic products of their host. Our goal is a systems-level understanding of host-viral metabolic interaction via computational tools and quantitative dynamic measurements. Here we present an integrated model of T7 phage viral replication and host E. coli metabolism that predicts phage production changes across media conditions and provides insight into the underlying limiting factors in T7 replication. The model simulations, supported by our experimental measurements, highlight the role of host metabolism in determining the dynamics of viral infection.
We present the first computational kinetic model of polyamine metabolism in bloodstream-form Trypanosoma brucei, the causative agent of human African trypanosomiasis. We systematically extracted the polyamine pathway from the complete metabolic network while still maintaining the predictive capability of the pathway. The kinetic model is constructed on the basis of information gleaned from the experimental biology literature and defined as a set of ordinary differential equations. We applied Michaelis-Menten kinetics featuring regulatory factors to describe enzymatic activities that are well defined. Uncharacterised enzyme kinetics were approximated and justified with available physiological properties of the system. Optimisation-based dynamic simulations were performed to train the model with experimental data and inconsistent predictions prompted an iterative procedure of model refinement. Good agreement between simulation results and measured data reported in various experimental conditions shows that the model has good applicability in spite of there being gaps in the required data. With this kinetic model, the relative importance of the individual pathway enzymes was assessed. We observed that, at low-to-moderate levels of inhibition, enzymes catalysing reactions of de novo AdoMet (MAT) and ornithine production (OrnPt) have more efficient inhibitory effect on total trypanothione content in comparison to other enzymes in the pathway. In our model, prozyme and TSHSyn (the production catalyst of total trypanothione) were also found to exhibit potent control on total trypanothione content but only when they were strongly inhibited. Different chemotherapeutic strategies against T. brucei were investigated using this model and interruption of polyamine synthesis via joint inhibition of MAT or OrnPt together with other polyamine enzymes was identified as an optimal therapeutic strategy.
Motivation: Highly redundant metabolic networks and experimental data from cultures likely adapting simultaneously to multiple stresses can complicate the analysis of cellular behaviors. It is proposed that the explicit consideration of these factors is critical to understanding the competitive basis of microbial strategies.
Results: Wide ranging, seemingly unrelated Escherichia coli physiological fluxes can be simply and accurately described as linear combinations of a few ecologically relevant stress adaptations. These strategies were identified by decomposing the central metabolism of E.coli into elementary modes (mathematically defined biochemical pathways) and assessing the resource investment cost–benefit properties for each pathway. The approach capitalizes on the inherent tradeoffs related to investing finite resources like nitrogen into different pathway enzymes when the pathways have varying metabolic efficiencies. The subset of ecologically competitive pathways represented 0.02% of the total permissible pathways. The biological relevance of the assembled strategies was tested against 10 000 randomly constructed pathway subsets. None of the randomly assembled collections were able to describe all of the considered experimental data as accurately as the cost-based subset. The results suggest these metabolic strategies are biologically significant. The current descriptions were compared with linear programming (LP)-based flux descriptions using the Euclidean distance metric. The current study's pathway subset described the experimental fluxes with better accuracy than the LP results without having to test multiple objective functions or constraints and while providing additional ecological insight into microbial behavior. The assembled pathways seem to represent a generalized set of strategies that can describe a wide range of microbial responses and hint at evolutionary processes where a handful of successful metabolic strategies are utilized simultaneously in different combinations to adapt to diverse conditions.
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
A genome-scale metabolic model of Helicobacter pylori 26695 was constructed from genome sequence annotation, biochemical, and physiological data. This represents an in silico model largely derived from genomic information for an organism for which there is substantially less biochemical information available relative to previously modeled organisms such as Escherichia coli. The reconstructed metabolic network contains 388 enzymatic and transport reactions and accounts for 291 open reading frames. Within the paradigm of constraint-based modeling, extreme-pathway analysis and flux balance analysis were used to explore the metabolic capabilities of the in silico model. General network properties were analyzed and compared to similar results previously generated for Haemophilus influenzae. A minimal medium required by the model to generate required biomass constituents was calculated, indicating the requirement of eight amino acids, six of which correspond to essential human amino acids. In addition a list of potential substrates capable of fulfilling the bulk carbon requirements of H. pylori were identified. A deletion study was performed wherein reactions and associated genes in central metabolism were deleted and their effects were simulated under a variety of substrate availability conditions, yielding a number of reactions that are deemed essential. Deletion results were compared to recently published in vitro essentiality determinations for 17 genes. The in silico model accurately predicted 10 of 17 deletion cases, with partial support for additional cases. Collectively, the results presented herein suggest an effective strategy of combining in silico modeling with experimental technologies to enhance biological discovery for less characterized organisms and their genomes.
Communication networks between cells and tissues are necessary for homeostasis in multicellular organisms. Intercellular (between cell) communication networks are particularly relevant in stem cell biology, as stem cell fate decisions (self-renewal, proliferation, lineage specification) are tightly regulated based on physiological demand. We have developed a novel mathematical model of blood stem cell development incorporating cell-level kinetic parameters as functions of secreted molecule-mediated intercellular networks. By relation to quantitative cellular assays, our model is capable of predictively simulating many disparate features of both normal and malignant hematopoiesis, relating internal parameters and microenvironmental variables to measurable cell fate outcomes. Through integrated in silico and experimental analyses, we show that blood stem and progenitor cell fate is regulated by cell–cell feedback, and can be controlled non-cell autonomously by dynamically perturbing intercellular signalling. We extend this concept by demonstrating that variability in the secretion rates of the intercellular regulators is sufficient to explain heterogeneity in culture outputs, and that loss of responsiveness to cell–cell feedback signalling is both necessary and sufficient to induce leukemic transformation in silico.
cell culture; cellular networks; hematopoiesis; modelling; stem cells
UMP kinase from Escherichia coli is one of the four regulatory enzymes involved in the de novo biosynthetic pathway of pyrimidine nucleotides. This homohexamer, with no counterpart in eukarya, might serve as a target for new antibacterial drugs. Although the bacterial enzyme does not show sequence similarity with any other known nucleoside monophosphate kinase, two segments between amino acids 35 to 78 and 145 to 194 exhibit 28% identity with phosphoglycerate kinase and 30% identity with aspartokinase, respectively. Based on these similarities, a number of residues of E. coli UMP kinase were selected for site-directed mutagenesis experiments. Biochemical, kinetic, and spectroscopic analysis of the modified proteins identified residues essential for catalysis (Asp146), binding of UMP (Asp174), and interaction with the allosteric effectors, GTP and UTP (Arg62 and Asp77).
This paper studies the effect of salicylate on the energy metabolism of mitochondria using in silico simulations. A kinetic model of the mitochondrial Krebs cycle is constructed using information on the individual enzymes. Model parameters for the rate equations are estimated using in vitro experimental data from the literature. Enzyme concentrations are determined from data on respiration in mitochondrial suspensions containing glutamate and malate. It is shown that inhibition in succinate dehydrogenase and α-ketoglutarate dehydrogenase by salicylate contributes substantially to the cumulative inhibition of the Krebs cycle by salicylates. Uncoupling of oxidative phosphorylation has little effect and coenzyme A consumption in salicylates transformation processes has an insignificant effect on the rate of substrate oxidation in the Krebs cycle. It is found that the salicylate-inhibited Krebs cycle flux can be increased by flux redirection through addition of external glutamate and malate, and depletion in external α-ketoglutarate and glycine concentrations.
Krebs cycle; kinetic model; salicylates
Regulation of metabolic enzymes plays a crucial role in the maintenance of metabolic homeostasis, and in the capacity of living systems to undergo physiological adaptation under multiple environmental conditions. Metabolic regulation is achieved through a complex interplay of transcriptional and post-transcriptional mechanisms, some of which have been experimentally characterized for specific pathways and organisms. Many of the details, however, including the values of most kinetic parameters, have proven difficult to elucidate. Hence, understanding the principles that underlie metabolic regulation strategies constitutes an ongoing challenge. In the context of genome-scale steady state models of metabolic networks, it has been shown that evolution may drive metabolic networks towards reaching computationally predictable optimal states, such as maximal growth capacity. Here we develop a new computational approach based on the hypothesis that the regulatory systems operating on metabolic networks have evolved towards an optimal architecture as well. Specifically, we hypothesize that the topology of metabolic regulation networks has been selected for optimally maintaining the system balanced around one or more steady states. Based on these hypotheses, we use methods related to flux balance analysis to construct a model of metabolic regulation based primarily on a metabolic network’s topology, bypassing the requirement for the details of all kinetic parameters. This model predicts an optimal regulatory network of metabolic interactions that can resolve perturbations to a given steady state in a metabolic system. We explore the ability of the model to predict optimal regulatory responses in both a simple toy network and in a fragment of the well-described glycolysis pathway.
metabolic regulation; flux balance analysis; enzyme kinetics; metabolism; optimality; logistic map; chaos
Transcriptional regulation of the genes in metabolic pathways is a highly successful strategy, which is virtually universal in microorganisms. The lac operon of E. coli is but one example of how enzyme and transporter production can be made conditional on the presence of a nutrient to catabolize.
With a minimalist model of metabolism, cell growth and transcriptional regulation in a microorganism, we explore how the interaction between environmental conditions and gene regulation set the growth rate of cells in the phase of exponential growth. This in silico model, which is based on biochemical rate equations, does not describe a specific organism, but the magnitudes of its parameters are chosen to match realistic values. Optimizing the parameters of the regulatory system allows us to quantify the fitness benefit of regulation. When a second nutrient and its metabolic pathway are introduced, the system must further decide whether and how to activate both pathways.
Even the crudest transcriptional network is shown to substantially increase the fitness of the organism, and this effect persists even when the range of nutrient levels is kept very narrow. We show that maximal growth is achieved when pathway activation is a more or less steeply graded function of the nutrient concentration. Furthermore, we predict that bistability of the system is a rare phenomenon in this context, but outline a situation where it may be selected for.
A growing number of realistic in silico models of metabolic functions are being formulated and can serve as 'dry lab' platforms to prototype and simulate experiments before they are performed. For example, dual perturbation experiments that vary both genetic and environmental parameters can readily be simulated in silico. Genetic and environmental perturbations were applied to a cell-scale model of the human erythrocyte and subsequently investigated.
The resulting steady state fluxes and concentrations, as well as dynamic responses to the perturbations were analyzed, yielding two important conclusions: 1) that transporters are informative about the internal states (fluxes and concentrations) of a cell and, 2) that genetic variations can disrupt the natural sequence of dynamic interactions between network components. The former arises from adjustments in energy and redox states, while the latter is a result of shifting time scales in aggregate pool formation of metabolites. These two concepts are illustrated for glucose-6 phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) and pyruvate kinase (PK) in the human red blood cell.
Dual perturbation experiments in silico are much more informative for the characterization of functional states than single perturbations. Predictions from an experimentally validated cellular model of metabolism indicate that the measurement of cofactor precursor transport rates can inform the internal state of the cell when the external demands are altered or a causal genetic variation is introduced. Finally, genetic mutations that alter the clinical phenotype may also disrupt the 'natural' time scale hierarchy of interactions in the network.
The encyclopedia of Escherichia coli genes and metabolism (EcoCyc) is a database that combines information about the genome and the intermediary metabolism of E.coli. It describes 2034 genes, 306 enzymes encoded by these genes, 580 metabolic reactions that occur in E.coli and the organization of these reactions into 100 metabolic pathways. The EcoCyc graphical user interface allows query and exploration of the EcoCyc database using visualization tools such as genomic map browsers and automatic layouts of metabolic pathways. EcoCyc spans the space from sequence to function to allow investigation of an unusually broad range of questions. EcoCyc can be thought of as both an electronic review article, because of its copious references to the primary literature, and as an in silico model of E.coli that can be probed and analyzed through computational means.