Metabolic flux analysis in plants: Coping with complexity

Doug K. Allen, Igor G Libourel, Yair Shachar-Hill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


Theory and experience in metabolic engineering both show that metabolism operates at the network level. In plants, this complexity is compounded by a high degree of compartmentation and the synthesis of a very wide array of secondary metabolic products. A further challenge to understanding and predicting plant metabolic function is posed by our ignorance about the structure of metabolic networks even in well-studied systems. Metabolic flux analysis (MFA) provides tools to measure and model the functioning of metabolism, and is making significant contributions to coping with their complexity. This review gives an overview of different MFA approaches, the measurements required to implement them and the information they yield. The application of MFA methods to plant systems is then illustrated by several examples from the recent literature. Next, the challenges that plant metabolism poses for MFA are discussed together with ways that these can be addressed. Lastly, new developments in MFA are described that can be expected to improve the range and reliability of plant MFA in the coming years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1241-1257
Number of pages17
JournalPlant, Cell and Environment
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2009


  • Central metabolism
  • Compartmentation
  • Isotopic labelling
  • Metabolic engineering
  • Metabolic networks
  • Optimal design
  • Plant metabolism
  • Plant systems biology
  • Predictive modelling
  • Regulation

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Metabolic flux analysis in plants: Coping with complexity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this