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J Theor Biol. 2004 Jun 7;228(3):327-33.

Thermodynamic constraints for biochemical networks.

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Biotechnology and Bioengineering Center, Department of Physiology, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI 53226, USA.


The constraint-based approach to analysis of biochemical systems has emerged as a useful tool for rational metabolic engineering. Flux balance analysis (FBA) is based on the constraint of mass conservation; energy balance analysis (EBA) is based on non-equilibrium thermodynamics. The power of these approaches lies in the fact that the constraints are based on physical laws, and do not make use of unknown parameters. Here, we show that the network structure (i.e. the stoichiometric matrix) alone provides a system of constraints on the fluxes in a biochemical network which are feasible according to both mass balance and the laws of thermodynamics. A realistic example shows that these constraints can be sufficient for deriving unambiguous, biologically meaningful results. The thermodynamic constraints are obtained by comparing of the sign pattern of the flux vector to the sign patterns of the cycles of the internal cycle space via connection between stoichiometric network theory (SNT) and the mathematical theory of oriented matroids.

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