, Volume 27, Issue 5, pp 479-490

Metabolic regulation: A control analytic perspective

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A possible basis for a quantitative theory of metabolic regulation is outlined. Regulation is defined here as the alteration of reaction properties to augment or counteract the mass-action trend in a network reactions. In living systems the enzymes that catalyze these reactions are the “handles” through which such alteration is effected. It is shown how the elasticity coefficients of an enzyme-catalyzed reaction with respect to substrates and products are the sum of a massaction term and a regulatory kinetic term; these coefficients therefore distinguish between massaction effects and regulatory effects and are recognized as the key to quantifying regulation. As elasticity coefficients are also basic ingredients of metabolic control analysis, it is possible to relate regulation to such concepts as control, signalling, stability, and homeostasis. The need for care in the choice of relative or absolute changes when considering questions of metabolic regulation is stressed. Although the concepts are illustrated in terms of a simple coupled reaction system, they apply equally to more complex systems. When such systems are divided into reaction blocks, co-response coefficients can be used to measure the elasticities of these blocks.

I dedicate this paper to Henrik Kacser, co-founder of and guiding light in the field of metabolic control analysis. His recent death leaves us bereft of a fount of wisdom and kindness, but his work remains as a monument along the path of our search for an understanding of metabolic behavior.