Open Access Research article

Modeling the Calvin-Benson cycle

Jiri Jablonsky1*, Hermann Bauwe2 and Olaf Wolkenhauer1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Systems Biology and Bioinformatics, University of Rostock, 18051 Rostock, Germany

2 Department of Plant Physiology, University of Rostock, 18059 Rostock, Germany

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BMC Systems Biology 2011, 5:185  doi:10.1186/1752-0509-5-185

Published: 3 November 2011



Modeling the Calvin-Benson cycle has a history in the field of theoretical biology. Anyone who intends to model this system will look at existing models to adapt, refine and improve them. With the goal to study the regulation of carbon metabolism, we investigated a broad range of relevant models for their suitability to provide the basis for further modeling efforts. Beyond a critical analysis of existing models, we furthermore investigated the question how adjacent metabolic pathways, for instance photorespiration, can be integrated in such models.


Our analysis reveals serious problems with a range of models that are publicly available and widely used. The problems include the irreproducibility of the published results or significant differences between the equations in the published description of the model and model itself in the supplementary material. In addition to and based on the discussion of existing models, we furthermore analyzed approaches in PGA sink implementation and confirmed a weak relationship between the level of its regulation and efficiency of PGA export, in contrast to significant changes in the content of metabolic pool within the Calvin-Benson cycle.


In our study we show that the existing models that have been investigated are not suitable for reuse without substantial modifications. We furthermore show that the minor adjacent pathways of the carbon metabolism, neglected in all kinetic models of Calvin-Benson cycle, cannot be substituted without consequences in the mass production dynamics. We further show that photorespiration or at least its first step (O2 fixation) has to be implemented in the model if this model is aimed for analyses out of the steady state.