Biofuels derived from lignocellulosic biomass offer promising alternative renewable energy sources for transportation fuels. Significant effort has been made to engineer Saccharomyces cerevisiae to efficiently ferment pentose sugars such as D-xylose and L-arabinose into biofuels such as ethanol through heterologous expression of the fungal D-xylose and L-arabinose pathways. However, one of the major bottlenecks in these fungal pathways is that the cofactors are not balanced, which contributes to inefficient utilization of pentose sugars. We utilized a genome-scale model of S. cerevisiae to predict the maximal achievable growth rate for cofactor balanced and imbalanced D-xylose and L-arabinose utilization pathways. Dynamic flux balance analysis (DFBA) was used to simulate batch fermentation of glucose, D-xylose, and L-arabinose. The dynamic models and experimental results are in good agreement for the wild type and for the engineered D-xylose utilization pathway. Cofactor balancing the engineered D-xylose and L-arabinose utilization pathways simulated an increase in ethanol batch production of 24.7% while simultaneously reducing the predicted substrate utilization time by 70%. Furthermore, the effects of cofactor balancing the engineered pentose utilization pathways were evaluated throughout the genome-scale metabolic network. This work not only provides new insights to the global network effects of cofactor balancing but also provides useful guidelines for engineering a recombinant yeast strain with cofactor balanced engineered pathways that efficiently co-utilizes pentose and hexose sugars for biofuels production. Experimental switching of cofactor usage in enzymes has been demonstrated, but is a time-consuming effort. Therefore, systems biology models that can predict the likely outcome of such strain engineering efforts are highly useful for motivating which efforts are likely to be worth the significant time investment.
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