Accuracy of alternative representations for integrated biochemical systems

Eberhard O. Voit, Michael A. Savageau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


The Michaelis-Menten formalism often provides appropriate representations of individual enzyme-catalyzed reactions in vitro but is not well suited for the mathematical analysis of complex biochemical networks. Mathematically tractable alternatives are the linear formalism and the power-law formalism. Within the power-law formalism there are alternative ways to represent biochemical processes, depending upon the degree to which fluxes and concentrations are aggregated. Two of the most relevant variants for dealing with biochemical pathways are treated in this paper. In one variant, aggregation leads to a rate law for each enzyme-catalyzed reaction, which is then represented by a power-law function. In the other, aggregation produces a composite rate law for either net rate of increase or net rate of decrease of each system constituent; the composite rate laws are then represented by a power-law function. The first variant is the mathematical basis for a method of biochemical analysis called metabolic control, the latter for biochemical systems theory. We compare the accuracy of the linear and of the two power-law representations for networks of biochemical reactions governed by Michaelis-Menten and Hill kinetics. Michaelis-Menten kinetics are always represented more accurately by power-law than by linear functions. Hill kinetics are in most cases best modeled by power-law functions, but in some cases linear functions are best. Aggregation into composite rate laws for net increase or net decrease of each system constituent almost always improves the accuracy of the power-law representation. The improvement in accuracy is one of several factors that contribute to the wide range of validity of this power-law representation. Other contributing factors that are discussed include the nonlinear character of the power-law formalism, homeostatic regulatory mechanisms in living systems, and simplification of rate laws by regulatory mechanisms in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6869-6880
Number of pages12
Issue number21
StatePublished - 1987
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry


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