It has been observed experimentally that most unbranched biosynthetic pathways have irreversible reactions near their beginning, many times at the first step. If there were no functional reasons for this fact, then one would expect irreversible reactions to be equally distributed among all positions in such pathways. Since this is not the case, we have attempted to identify functional consequences of having an irreversible reaction early in the pathway. We systematically varied the position of the irreversible reaction in model pathways and compared the resulting systemic behavior according to several criteria for functional effectiveness, using the method of mathematically controlled comparisons. This technique minimizes extraneous differences in systemic behavior and identifies those that are fundamental. Our results show that a pathway with an irreversible reaction located at the first step, and with all other reactions reversible, is on average better than an otherwise equivalent pathway with all reactions reversible, which in turn is on average better than an otherwise equivalent pathway with an irreversible reaction located at any step other than the first. Pathways with an irreversible first reaction and low concentrations of intermediates (one of the primary criteria for functional effectiveness) exhibit the following profile when compared to fully reversible pathways: changes in the concentration of intermediates in response to changes in the level of initial substrate are equally low, the robustness of the intermediate concentrations and of the flux is similar, the margins of stability are similar, flux is more responsive to changes in demand for end product, intermediate concentrations are less responsive to changes in demand for end product, and transient times are shorter. These results provide a functional rationale for the positioning of irreversible reactions at the beginning of unbranched biosynthetic pathways.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||12|
|State||Published - 2001|
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