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Bioinformatics. 2008 Mar 1;24(5):704-10. doi: 10.1093/bioinformatics/btn010. Epub 2008 Jan 10.

A feed-forward loop guarantees robust behavior in Escherichia coli carbohydrate uptake.

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Systems Biology Group, Max-Planck-Institute for Dynamics of Complex Technical Systems, Magdeburg, Germany.



In Escherichia coli, the phosphoenolpyruvate: carbohydrate phosphotransferase system acts like a sensory element which is able to measure the flux through glycolysis. Since the output of the sensor, the phosphorylated form of protein EIIA, is connected to the activity of the global transcription factor Crp, the kinetic and structural properties of the system are important for the understanding of the overall cellular behavior.


A family of mathematical models is presented, varying with respect to their degree of complexity (number of reactions that are taken into account, number of parameters) that show a structurally and quantitatively robust behavior. The models describe a set of experimental data that relates the output of the sensor to the specific growth rate. A central element that is responsible for the structural robustness is a feed-forward loop in the glycolysis, namely the activation of the pyruvate kinase reaction by a metabolite of the upper part of the glycolysis. The robustness is shown for variations of the measured data as well as for variations of the parameters.


MATLAB files for model simulations are available on A short description of the files provided on this site can be found in the Supporting information.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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