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Posts from the ‘Modeling and Simulation’ Category

Comparison of Optimal Thermodynamic Models of the Tricarboxylic Acid Cycle from Heterotrophs, Cyanobacteria and Green Sulfur Bacteria

We have applied a new stochastic simulation approach to predict the metabolite levels, material flux and thermodynamic profiles of the oxidative TCA cycles found in E. coli and Synechococcus sp. PCC 7002, and in the reductive TCA cycle typical of chemolithoautotrophs and phototrophic green sulfur bacteria such as Chlorobaculum tepidum. The simulation approach is based on modeling states using statistical thermodynamics and employs an assumption similar to that used in transition state theory. The ability to evaluate the thermodynamics of metabolic pathways allows one to understand the relationship between coupling of energy and material gradients in the environment and the self-organization of stable biological systems, and it is shown that each cycle operates in the direction expected due to its environmental niche. The simulations predict changes in metabolite levels and flux in response to changes in cofactor concentrations that would be hard to predict without an elaborate model based on the law of mass action. In fact, we show that a thermodynamically unfavorable reaction can still have flux in the forward direction when it is part of a reaction network. The ability to predict metabolite levels, energy flow and material flux should be significant for understanding the dynamics of natural systems and for understanding principles for engineering organisms for production of specialty chemicals.

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Concepts, Challenges and Successes in Modeling Thermodynamics of Metabolism

The modeling of the chemical reactions involved in metabolism is a daunting task. Ideally, the modeling of metabolism would use kinetic simulations, but these simulations require knowledge of the thousands of rate constants involved in the reactions. The measurement of rate constants is very labor intensive, and hence rate constants for most enzymatic reactions are not available. Consequently, constraint-based flux modeling has been the method of choice because it does not require the use of the rate constants of the law of mass action. However, this convenience also limits the predictive power of constraint-based approaches in that the law of mass action is used only as a constraint, making it difficult to predict metabolite levels or energy requirements of pathways.
An alternative to both of these approaches is to model metabolism using simulations of states rather than simulations of reactions, in which the state is defined as the set of all metabolite counts or concentrations. While kinetic simulations model reactions based on the likelihood of the reaction derived from the law of mass action, states are modeled based on likelihood ratios of mass action. Both approaches provide information on the energy requirements of metabolic reactions and pathways. However, modeling states rather than reactions has the advantage that the parameters needed to model states (chemical potentials) are much easier to determine than the parameters needed to model reactions (rate constants). Herein we discuss recent results, assumptions and issues in using simulations of state to model metabolism.

Simulating Metabolism with Statistical Thermodynamics

New methods are needed for large scale modeling of metabolism that predict metabolite levels and characterize the thermodynamics of individual reactions and pathways. Current approaches use either kinetic simulations, which are difficult to extend to large networks of reactions because of the need for rate constants, or flux-based methods, which have a large number of feasible solutions because they are unconstrained by the law of mass action. This report presents an alternative modeling approach based on statistical thermodynamics. The principles of this approach are demonstrated using a simple set of coupled reactions, and then the system is characterized with respect to the changes in energy, entropy, free energy, and entropy production. Finally, the physical and biochemical insights that this approach can provide for metabolism are demonstrated by application to the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle of Escherichia coli. The reaction and pathway thermodynamics are evaluated and predictions are made regarding changes in concentration of TCA cycle intermediates due to 10- and 100-fold changes in the ratio of NAD+:NADH concentrations. Finally, the assumptions and caveats regarding the use of statistical thermodynamics to model non-equilibrium reactions are discussed.

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Mathematical Modeling of Microbial Community Dynamics: A Methodological Review

Microorganisms in nature form diverse communities that dynamically change in structure and function in response to environmental variations. As a complex adaptive system, microbial communities show higher-order properties that are not present in individual microbes, but arise from their interactions. Predictive mathematical models not only help to understand the underlying principles of the dynamics and emergent properties of natural and synthetic microbial communities, but also provide key knowledge required for engineering them. In this article, we provide an overview of mathematical tools that include not only current mainstream approaches, but also less traditional approaches that, in our opinion, can be potentially useful. We discuss a broad range of methods ranging from low-resolution supra-organismal to high-resolution individual-based modeling. Particularly, we highlight the integrative approaches that synergistically combine disparate methods. In conclusion, we provide our outlook for the key aspects that should be further developed to move microbial community modeling towards greater predictive power.
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Analyzing Data for Systems Biology: Working at the Intersection of Thermodynamics and Data Analytics

photosynthesis_cyanoCannon, W.R., and Baxter, D. J., SciDAC 2011 Proceedings, Denver CO


Many challenges in systems biology have to do with analyzing data within the framework of molecular phenomena and cellular pathways. How does this relate to thermodynamics that we know govern the behavior of molecules? Making progress in relating data analysis to thermodynamics is essential in systems biology if we are to build predictive models that enable the field of synthetic biology. This report discusses work at the crossroads of thermodynamics and data analysis, and demonstrates that statistical mechanical free energy is a multinomial log likelihood. Applications to systems biology are presented.