Fundamental Escherichia coli Biochemical Pathways for Biomass and Energy Production: Creation of Overall Flux States

Ross Carlson, Friedrich Srienc

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


We have previously shown that the metabolism for most efficient cell growth can be realized by a combination of two types of elementary modes. One mode produces biomass while the second mode generates only energy. The identity of the four most efficient biomass and energy pathway pairs changes, depending on the degree of oxygen limitation. The identification of such pathway pairs for different growth conditions offers a pathway-based explanation of maintenance energy generation. For a given growth rate, experimental aerobic glucose consumption rates can be used to estimate the contribution of each pathway type to the overall metabolic flux pattern. All metabolic fluxes are then completely determined by the stoichiometries of involved pathways defining all nutrient consumption and metabolite secretion rates. We present here equations that permit computation of network fluxes on the basis of unique pathways for the case of optimal, glucose-limited Escherichia coli growth under varying levels of oxygen stress. Predicted glucose and oxygen uptake rates and some metabolite secretion rates are in remarkable agreement with experimental observations supporting the validity of the presented approach. The entire most efficient, steady-state, metabolic rate structure is explicitly defined by the developed equations without need for additional computer simulations. The approach should be generally useful for analyzing and interpreting genomic data by predicting concise, pathway-based metabolic rate structures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-162
Number of pages14
JournalBiotechnology and bioengineering
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 20 2004


  • Biochemical pathway
  • Elementary mode analysis
  • Maintenance metabolism
  • Metabolic flux state
  • Metabolism


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