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Open Access Research article

Stoichiometric estimates of the biochemical conversion efficiencies in tsetse metabolism

Adrian V Custer

Author Affiliations

Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, 201 Wellman Hall #3112, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA

BMC Ecology 2005, 5:6  doi:10.1186/1472-6785-5-6

Published: 5 August 2005



The time varying flows of biomass and energy in tsetse (Glossina) can be examined through the construction of a dynamic mass-energy budget specific to these flies but such a budget depends on efficiencies of metabolic conversion which are unknown. These efficiencies of conversion determine the overall yields when food or storage tissue is converted into body tissue or into metabolic energy. A biochemical approach to the estimation of these efficiencies uses stoichiometry and a simplified description of tsetse metabolism to derive estimates of the yields, for a given amount of each substrate, of conversion product, by-products, and exchanged gases. This biochemical approach improves on estimates obtained through calorimetry because the stoichiometric calculations explicitly include the inefficiencies and costs of the reactions of conversion. However, the biochemical approach still overestimates the actual conversion efficiency because the approach ignores all the biological inefficiencies and costs such as the inefficiencies of leaky membranes and the costs of molecular transport, enzyme production, and cell growth.


This paper presents estimates of the net amounts of ATP, fat, or protein obtained by tsetse from a starting milligram of blood, and provides estimates of the net amounts of ATP formed from the catabolism of a milligram of fat along two separate pathways, one used for resting metabolism and one for flight. These estimates are derived from stoichiometric calculations constructed based on a detailed quantification of the composition of food and body tissue and on a description of the major metabolic pathways in tsetse simplified to single reaction sequences between substrates and products. The estimates include the expected amounts of uric acid formed, oxygen required, and carbon dioxide released during each conversion. The calculated estimates of uric acid egestion and of oxygen use compare favorably to published experimental measurements.


This biochemical analysis provides reasonable first estimates of the conversion efficiencies for the major pathways used by tsetse metabolism. These results now enable a deeper analysis of tsetse ecology based on the construction of a dynamic mass-energy budget for tsetse and their populations.