Although optimality of microbial metabolism under genetic and environmental perturbations is well studied, the effects of introducing heterologous reactions on the overall metabolism are not well understood. This point is important in the field of metabolic engineering because heterologous reactions are more frequently introduced into various microbial hosts. The genome-scale metabolic simulations of Escherichia coli strains engineered to produce 1,4-butanediol, 1,3-propanediol, and amorphadiene suggest that microbial metabolism shows much different responses to the introduced heterologous reactions in a strain-specific manner than typical gene knockouts in terms of the energetic status (e.g., ATP and biomass generation) and chemical production capacity. The 1,4-butanediol and 1,3-propanediol producers showed greater metabolic optimality than the wild-type strains and gene knockout mutants for the energetic status, while the amorphadiene producer was metabolically less optimal. For the optimal chemical production capacity, additional gene knockouts were most effective for the strain producing 1,3-propanediol, but not for the one producing 1,4-butanediol. These observations suggest that strains having heterologous metabolic reactions have metabolic characteristics significantly different from those of the wild-type strain and single gene knockout mutants. Finally, comparison of the theoretically predicted and 13C-based flux values pinpoints pathways with non-optimal flux values, which can be considered as engineering targets in systems metabolic engineering strategies. To our knowledge, this study is the first attempt to quantitatively characterize microbial metabolisms with different heterologous reactions. The suggested potential reasons behind each strain’s different metabolic responses to the introduced heterologous reactions should be carefully considered in strain designs.
- heterologous metabolic pathway
- microbial metabolism
- metabolic optimality
- systems metabolic engineering