Motivation

Random sampling of metabolic fluxes can provide a comprehensive description of the capabilities of a metabolic network. However, current sampling approaches do not model thermodynamics explicitly, leading to inaccurate predictions of an organism’s potential or actual metabolic operations.

Results

We present a probabilistic framework combining thermodynamic quantities with steady-state flux constraints to analyze the properties of a metabolic network. It includes methods for probabilistic metabolic optimization and for joint sampling of thermodynamic and flux spaces. Applied to a model of Escherichia coli, we use the methods to reveal known and novel mechanisms of substrate channeling, and to accurately predict reaction directions and metabolite concentrations. Interestingly, predicted flux distributions are multimodal, leading to discrete hypotheses on E.coli’s metabolic capabilities.

Availability and implementation

Python and MATLAB packages available at https://gitlab.com/csb.ethz/pta.

Supplementary information

Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.