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Nat Chem Biol. 2012 May 17;8(6):527-35. doi: 10.1038/nchembio.975.

Natural strategies for the spatial optimization of metabolism in synthetic biology.

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Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of California-Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, USA.


Metabolism is a highly interconnected web of chemical reactions that power life. Though the stoichiometry of metabolism is well understood, the multidimensional aspects of metabolic regulation in time and space remain difficult to define, model and engineer. Complex metabolic conversions can be performed by multiple species working cooperatively and exchanging metabolites via structured networks of organisms and resources. Within cells, metabolism is spatially regulated via sequestration in subcellular compartments and through the assembly of multienzyme complexes. Metabolic engineering and synthetic biology have had success in engineering metabolism in the first and second dimensions, designing linear metabolic pathways and channeling metabolic flux. More recently, engineering of the third dimension has improved output of engineered pathways through isolation and organization of multicell and multienzyme complexes. This review highlights natural and synthetic examples of three-dimensional metabolism both inter- and intracellularly, offering tools and perspectives for biological design.

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