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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Incorporation of enzyme concentrations into FBA and identification of optimal metabolic pathways

Rajat K De1*, Mouli Das1 and Subhasis Mukhopadhyay2

Author Affiliations

1 Machine Intelligence Unit, Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata 700108, India

2 Department of Biophysics, Molecular Biology and Genetics, Calcutta University, Kolkata 700009, India

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BMC Systems Biology 2008, 2:65  doi:10.1186/1752-0509-2-65

Published: 18 July 2008



In the present article, we propose a method for determining optimal metabolic pathways in terms of the level of concentration of the enzymes catalyzing various reactions in the entire metabolic network. The method, first of all, generates data on reaction fluxes in a pathway based on steady state condition. A set of constraints is formulated incorporating weighting coefficients corresponding to concentration of enzymes catalyzing reactions in the pathway. Finally, the rate of yield of the target metabolite, starting with a given substrate, is maximized in order to identify an optimal pathway through these weighting coefficients.


The effectiveness of the present method is demonstrated on two synthetic systems existing in the literature, two pentose phosphate, two glycolytic pathways, core carbon metabolism and a large network of carotenoid biosynthesis pathway of various organisms belonging to different phylogeny. A comparative study with the existing extreme pathway analysis also forms a part of this investigation. Biological relevance and validation of the results are provided. Finally, the impact of the method on metabolic engineering is explained with a few examples.


The method may be viewed as determining an optimal set of enzymes that is required to get an optimal metabolic pathway. Although it is a simple one, it has been able to identify a carotenoid biosynthesis pathway and the optimal pathway of core carbon metabolic network that is closer to some earlier investigations than that obtained by the extreme pathway analysis. Moreover, the present method has identified correctly optimal pathways for pentose phosphate and glycolytic pathways. It has been mentioned using some examples how the method can suitably be used in the context of metabolic engineering.