The metabolic core and catalytic switches are fundamental elements in the self-regulation of the Systemic Metabolic Structure of Cells

Ildefonso M. De la Fuente, Jesus M. Cortes, Martin-Blas Perez-Pinilla, Vicente Ruiz-Rodriguez and Juan Veguillas. The metabolic core and catalytic switches are fundamental elements in the self-regulation of the Systemic Metabolic Structure of Cells. PLoS ONE 6:e27224, 2011 [pdf]

Background. Experimental observations and numerical studies with dissipative metabolic networks have shown that cellular enzymatic activity self-organizes spontaneously leading to the emergence of a metabolic core formed by a set of enzymatic reactions which are always active under all environmental conditions, while the rest of catalytic processes are only intermittently active. The reactions of the metabolic core are essential for biomass formation and to assure optimal metabolic performance. The on-off catalytic reactions and the metabolic core are essential ingredients of a Systemic Metabolic Structure which seems to be a key feature common to all cellular organisms.

Methodology/Principal Findings. In order to investigate the functional importance of the metabolic core we have studied different catalytic patterns of a dissipative metabolic network model under different external conditions. The emerging biochemical data have been analysed using information-based dynamic tools, such as Pearson’s correlation and Transfer Entropy (which measures effective functionality). Our results show that a functional structure of effective connectivity emerges which is dynamical and characterized by significant variations of bio-molecular information flows.

Conclusions/Significance. We have quantified essential aspects of the metabolic core functionality. The always active enzymatic reactions form a hub –with a high degree of effective connectivity- exhibiting a wide range of functional information values being able to act either as a source or as a sink of bio-molecular causal interactions. Likewise, we have found that the metabolic core is an essential part of an emergent functional structure characterized by catalytic modules and metabolic switches which allow critical transitions in enzymatic activity. Both, the metabolic core and the catalytic switches in which also intermittently-active enzymes are involved seem to be fundamental elements in the self-regulation of the Systemic Metabolic Structure.

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