Thermodynamic constraints on the regulation of metabolic fluxes
Abstract Nutrition and metabolism are fundamental to cellular function in physiological and pathological contexts. Metabolic activity (i.e. rates, flow, or most commonly referred to as flux) is constrained by thermodynamics and regulated by the activity of enzymes. The general principles that relate biological and physical variables to metabolic control are incompletely understood. Using metabolic control analysis in several representative topological structures of metabolic pathways as models, we derive exact results and conduct computer simulations that define relationships between thermodynamics, enzyme activity, and flux control. We confirm that metabolic pathways that are very far from equilibrium are controlled by the activity of upstream enzymes. However, in general, metabolic pathways have a more adaptable pattern of regulation, controlled minimally by thermodynamics and not necessarily by the specific enzyme that generates the given reaction. These findings show how the control of metabolic pathways, which are rarely very far from equilibrium, is largely set by the overall flux through a pathway rather than by the enzyme which generates the flux or by thermodynamics.
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