Biochemical production capabilities of escherichia coli

Amit Varma, Brian W. Boesch, Bernhard O. Palsson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

145 Citations (Scopus)


Microbial metabolism provides at mechanism for the conversion of substrates into useful biochemicals. Utilization of microbes in industrial processes requires a modification of their natural metabolism in order to increase the efficiency of the desired conversion. Redirection of metabolic fluxes forms the basis of the newly defined field of metabolic engineering. In this study we use a flux balance based approach to study the biosynthesis of the 20 amino acids and 4 nucleotides as biochemical products. These amino acids and nucleotides are primary products of biosynthesis as well as important industrial products and precursors for the production of other biochemicals. The biosynthetic reactions of the bacterium Escherichia coli have been formulated into a metabolic network, and growth has been defined as a balanced drain on the metabolite pools corresponding to the cellular composition. Theoretical limits on the conversion of glucose, glycerol, and acetate substrates to biomass as well as the biochemical products have been computed. The substrate that results in the maximal carbon conversion to a particular product is identified. Criteria have been developed to identify metabolic constraints in the optimal solutions. The constraints of stoichiometry, energy, and redox have been determined in the conversions of glucose, glycerol, and acetate substrates into the biochemicals. Flux distributions corresponding to the maximal production of the biochemicals are presented. The goals of metabolic engineering are the optimal redirection of fluxes from generating biomass toward producing the desired biochemical. Optimal biomass generation is shown to decrease in a piecewise linear manner with increasing product formation. In some cases, synergy is observed between biochemical production and growth, leading to an increased overall carbon conversion. Balanced growth and product formation are important in a bioprocess, particularly for nonsecreted products. © 1993 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-73
Number of pages15
JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jun 1993

Other keywords

  • amino acids
  • biosynthesis
  • Escherichia coli
  • linear optimization
  • metabolic engineering
  • metabolic fluxes
  • nucleotides
  • stoichiometry


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