Network-based analysis of metabolic regulation in the human red blood cell

Nathan D. Price, Jennifer L. Reed, Jason A. Papin, Sharon J. Wiback, Bernhard O. Palsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Reconstruction of cell-scale metabolic networks is now possible. A description of allowable metabolic network functions can be obtained using extreme pathways, which are the convex basis vectors of the solution space containing all steady state flux distributions. However, only a portion of these allowable network functions are physiologically possible due to kinetic and regulatory constraints. Methods are now needed that enable us to take a defined metabolic network and deduce candidate regulatory structures that control the selection of these physiologically relevant states. One such approach is the singular value decomposition (SVD) of extreme pathway matrices (P), which allows for the characterization of steady state solution spaces. Eigenpathways, which are the left singular vectors from the SVD of P, can be described and categorized by their biochemical function. SVD of P for the human red blood cell showed that the first five eigenpathways, out of a total of 23, effectively characterize all the relevant physiological states of red blood cell metabolism calculated with a detailed kinetic model. Thus, with five degrees of freedom the magnitude and nature of the regulatory needs are defined. Additionally, the dominant features of these first five eigenpathways described key metabolic splits that are indeed regulated in the human red blood cell. The extreme pathway matrix is derived directly from network topology and only knowledge of Vmax values is needed to reach these conclusions. Thus, we have implemented a network-based analysis of regulation that complements the study of individual regulatory events. This topological approach may provide candidate regulatory structures for metabolic networks with known stoichiometry but poorly characterized regulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-194
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 21 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Constraint-based models
  • Elementary modes
  • Extreme pathways
  • SVD
  • Singular value decomposition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Applied Mathematics


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