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Nat Genet. 2005 Jun;37(6):636-40. Epub 2005 May 8.

Large-scale in vivo flux analysis shows rigidity and suboptimal performance of Bacillus subtilis metabolism.

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Institute of Biotechnology, ETH Zürich, CH-8093 Zürich, Switzerland.


Qualitative theoretical approaches such as graph theory and stoichiometric analyses are beginning to uncover the architecture and systemic functions of complex metabolic reaction networks. At present, however, only a few, largely unproven quantitative concepts propose functional design principles of the global flux distribution. As operational units of function, molecular fluxes determine the systemic cell phenotype by linking genes, proteins and metabolites to higher-level biological functions. In sharp contrast to other 'omics' analyses, 'fluxome' analysis remained tedious. By large-scale quantification of in vivo flux responses, we identified a robust flux distribution in 137 null mutants of Bacillus subtilis. On its preferred substrate, B. subtilis has suboptimal metabolism because regulators of developmental programs maintain a 'standby' mode that invests substantial resources in anticipation of changing environmental conditions at the expense of optimal growth. Network rigidity and robustness are probably universal functional design principles, whereas the standby mode may be more specific.

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