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Metab Eng. 2011 Mar;13(2):150-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ymben.2011.01.005. Epub 2011 Jan 27.

Computation of metabolic fluxes and efficiencies for biological carbon dioxide fixation.

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School of Chemical Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA.


With rising energy prices and concern over the environmental impact of fossil fuel consumption, the push to develop biomass derived fuels has increased significantly. Although most global carbon fixation occurs via the Calvin Benson Bassham cycle, there are currently five other known pathways for carbon fixation; the goal of this study was to determine the thermodynamic efficiencies of all six carbon fixation pathways for the production of biomass using flux balance analysis. The three chemotrophic pathways, the reductive acetyl-CoA pathway, the 3-hydroxypropionate/4-hydroxybutyrate cycle and the dicarboxylate/4-hydroxybutyrate cycle, were found to be more efficient than photoautotrophic carbon fixation pathways. However, as hydrogen is not freely available, the energetic cost of hydrogen production from sunlight was calculated and included in the overall energy demand, which results in a 5 fold increase in the energy demand of chemoautotrophic carbon fixation. Therefore, when the cost of hydrogen production is included, photoautotrophic pathways are more efficient. However, the energetic cost for the production of 12 metabolic precursors was found to vary widely across the different carbon fixation pathways; therefore, different pathways may be more efficient at producing products from a single precursor than others. The results of this study have significant impact on the selection or design of autotrophic organisms for biofuel or biochemical production. Overall biomass production from solar energy is most efficient in organisms using the reductive TCA cycle, however, products derived from one metabolic precursor may be more efficiently produced using other carbon fixation pathways.

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