Research article

BMC Systems Biology

, 6:42

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Genome-scale modeling using flux ratio constraints to enable metabolic engineering of clostridial metabolism in silico

  • Michael J McAnultyAffiliated withBiological Systems Engineering Department, Virginia Tech
  • , Jiun Y YenAffiliated withBiological Systems Engineering Department, Virginia Tech
  • , Benjamin G FreedmanAffiliated withBiological Systems Engineering Department, Virginia Tech
  • , Ryan S SengerAffiliated withBiological Systems Engineering Department, Virginia Tech Email author 



Genome-scale metabolic networks and flux models are an effective platform for linking an organism genotype to its phenotype. However, few modeling approaches offer predictive capabilities to evaluate potential metabolic engineering strategies in silico.


A new method called “flux balance analysis with flux ratios (FBrAtio)” was developed in this research and applied to a new genome-scale model of Clostridium acetobutylicum ATCC 824 (iCAC490) that contains 707 metabolites and 794 reactions. FBrAtio was used to model wild-type metabolism and metabolically engineered strains of C. acetobutylicum where only flux ratio constraints and thermodynamic reversibility of reactions were required. The FBrAtio approach allowed solutions to be found through standard linear programming. Five flux ratio constraints were required to achieve a qualitative picture of wild-type metabolism for C. acetobutylicum for the production of: (i) acetate, (ii) lactate, (iii) butyrate, (iv) acetone, (v) butanol, (vi) ethanol, (vii) CO2 and (viii) H2. Results of this simulation study coincide with published experimental results and show the knockdown of the acetoacetyl-CoA transferase increases butanol to acetone selectivity, while the simultaneous over-expression of the aldehyde/alcohol dehydrogenase greatly increases ethanol production.


FBrAtio is a promising new method for constraining genome-scale models using internal flux ratios. The method was effective for modeling wild-type and engineered strains of C. acetobutylicum.


Genome-scale model clostridia flux ratio flux balance analysis metabolic engineering systems biology