Clostridium butyricum maximizes growth while minimizing enzyme usage and ATP production: metabolic flux distribution of a strain cultured in glycerol
Predicting the metabolic state of an organism after a gene knockout is a challenging task, because the regulatory system governs a series of transient metabolic changes that converge to a steady-state condition. Regulatory on/off minimization (ROOM) is a constraint-based algorithm for predicting the metabolic steady state after gene knockouts. It aims to minimize the number of significant flux changes (hence on/off) with respect to the wild type. ROOM is shown to accurately predict steady-state metabolic fluxes that maintain flux linearity, in agreement with experimental flux measurements, and to correctly identify short alternative pathways used for rerouting metabolic flux in response to gene knockouts. ROOM's growth rate and flux predictions are compared with previously suggested algorithms, minimization of metabolic adjustment, and flux balance analysis (FBA). We find that minimization of metabolic adjustment provides accurate predictions for the initial transient growth rates observed during the early postperturbation state, whereas ROOM and FBA more successfully predict final higher steady-state growth rates. Although FBA explicitly maximizes the growth rate, ROOM does not, and only implicitly favors flux distributions having high growth rates. This indicates that, even though the cell has not evolved to cope with specific mutations, regulatory mechanisms aiming to minimize flux changes after genetic perturbations may indeed work to this effect. Further work is needed to identify metrics that characterize the complete trajectory from the initial to the final metabolic steady states after genetic perturbations.