A key consideration in metabolic engineering is the determination of fluxes of the metabolites within the cell. This determination provides an unambiguous description of metabolism before and/or after engineering interventions. Here, we present a computational framework that combines a constraint-based modeling framework with isotopic label tracing on a large scale. When cells are fed a growth substrate with certain carbon positions labeled with 13C, the distribution of this label in the intracellular metabolites can be calculated based on the known biochemistry of the participating pathways. Most labeling studies focus on skeletal representations of central metabolism and ignore many flux routes that could contribute to the observed isotopic labeling patterns. In contrast, our approach investigates the importance of carrying out isotopic labeling studies using a more comprehensive reaction network consisting of 350 fluxes and 184 metabolites in Escherichia coli including global metabolite balances on cofactors such as ATP, NADH, and NADPH. The proposed procedure is demonstrated on an E. coli strain engineered to produce amorphadiene, a precursor to the antimalarial drug artemisinin. The cells were grown in continuous culture on glucose containing 20% [U-13C]glucose; the measurements are made using GC-MS performed on 13 amino acids extracted from the cells. We identify flux distributions for which the calculated labeling patterns agree well with the measurements alluding to the accuracy of the network reconstruction. Furthermore, we explore the robustness of the flux calculations to variability in the experimental MS measurements, as well as highlight the key experimental measurements necessary for flux determination. Finally, we discuss the effect of reducing the model, as well as shed light onto the customization of the developed computational framework to other systems.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology