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Annu Rev Biomed Eng. 1999;1:535-57.

Metabolic engineering.

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  • 1Department of Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.


Metabolic engineering is the science that combines systematic analysis of metabolic and other pathways with molecular biological techniques to improve cellular properties by designing and implementing rational genetic modifications. As such, metabolic engineering deals with the measurement of metabolic fluxes and elucidation of their control as determinants of metabolic function and cell physiology. A novel aspect of metabolic engineering is that it departs from the traditional reductionist paradigm of cellular metabolism, taking instead a holistic view. In this sense, metabolic engineering is well suited as a framework for the analysis of genome-wide differential gene expression data, in combination with data on protein content and in vivo metabolic fluxes. The insights of the integrated view of metabolism generated by metabolic engineering will have profound implications in biotechnological applications, as well as in devising rational strategies for target selection for screening candidate drugs or designing gene therapies. In this article we review basic concepts of metabolic engineering and provide examples of applications in the production of primary and secondary metabolites, improving cellular properties, and biomedical engineering.

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