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Design constraints on a synthetic metabolism


Bilgin, Tugce; Wagner, Andreas (2012). Design constraints on a synthetic metabolism. PLoS ONE, 7(6):e39903.

Abstract

A metabolism is a complex network of chemical reactions that converts sources of energy and chemical elements into biomass and other molecules. To design a metabolism from scratch and to implement it in a synthetic genome is almost within technological reach. Ideally, a synthetic metabolism should be able to synthesize a desired spectrum of molecules at a high rate, from multiple different nutrients, while using few chemical reactions, and producing little or no waste. Not all of these properties are achievable simultaneously. We here use a recently developed technique to create random metabolic networks with pre-specified properties to quantify trade-offs between these and other properties. We find that for every additional molecule to be synthesized a network needs on average three additional reactions. For every additional carbon source to be utilized, it needs on average two additional reactions. Networks able to synthesize 20 biomass molecules from each of 20 alternative sole carbon sources need to have at least 260 reactions. This number increases to 518 reactions for networks that can synthesize more than 60 molecules from each of 80 carbon sources. The maximally achievable rate of biosynthesis decreases by approximately 5 percent for every additional molecule to be synthesized. Biochemically related molecules can be synthesized at higher rates, because their synthesis produces less waste. Overall, the variables we study can explain 87 percent of variation in network size and 84 percent of the variation in synthesis rate. The constraints we identify prescribe broad boundary conditions that can help to guide synthetic metabolism design.

Abstract

A metabolism is a complex network of chemical reactions that converts sources of energy and chemical elements into biomass and other molecules. To design a metabolism from scratch and to implement it in a synthetic genome is almost within technological reach. Ideally, a synthetic metabolism should be able to synthesize a desired spectrum of molecules at a high rate, from multiple different nutrients, while using few chemical reactions, and producing little or no waste. Not all of these properties are achievable simultaneously. We here use a recently developed technique to create random metabolic networks with pre-specified properties to quantify trade-offs between these and other properties. We find that for every additional molecule to be synthesized a network needs on average three additional reactions. For every additional carbon source to be utilized, it needs on average two additional reactions. Networks able to synthesize 20 biomass molecules from each of 20 alternative sole carbon sources need to have at least 260 reactions. This number increases to 518 reactions for networks that can synthesize more than 60 molecules from each of 80 carbon sources. The maximally achievable rate of biosynthesis decreases by approximately 5 percent for every additional molecule to be synthesized. Biochemically related molecules can be synthesized at higher rates, because their synthesis produces less waste. Overall, the variables we study can explain 87 percent of variation in network size and 84 percent of the variation in synthesis rate. The constraints we identify prescribe broad boundary conditions that can help to guide synthetic metabolism design.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:29 June 2012
Deposited On:07 Feb 2013 14:00
Last Modified:07 Dec 2017 18:39
Publisher:Public Library of Science (PLoS)
ISSN:1932-6203
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0039903
PubMed ID:22768162

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