MCA revisited [1]

{First posted 7 June 2011 at, saved from oblivion by the internet archive}

Quite some time ago I promised to spend some time going over Metabolic Control Analysis (MCA). It’s one of the main reasons I decided to do this silly #postaday business, but have been rather hesitant as I just don’t know if what I hope to do is possible.

He who dares, Rodders.

The landmark paper “The control of flux” was written in 1973 by Henrik Kacser and Jim Burns [1], describing how the rates of metabolic pathways were affected by changes in the amounts or activities of pathway enzymes. Their work was given a sound mathematical basis by Christine Reder in 1988 [2].

Given there are excellent webpages devoted to the topic [3,4] along with countless review articles, you might reasonably ask why on earth I’m rerevisiting old ground.

In the paper, Reder sets out criteria under which her analysis holds. Which means of course that there are situations where it doesn’t hold. These are generally ignored – probably because the paper is so “mathsy” – with software tools typically blindly applying the algorithm. I shall show, by example, where the theory breaks down, and (this is where I’m on shaky ground) how it can be tweaked to encompass these cases.

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  1. Kacser H, & Burns JA (1973). The control of flux. Symposia of the Society for Experimental Biology, 27, 65-104 PMID: 4148886
  2. Reder C (1988). Metabolic control theory: a structural approach. Journal of theoretical biology, 135 (2), 175-201 PMID: 3267767
  3. Athel Cornish-Bowden. Metabolic Control Analysis
  4. Pedro Mendes. MCA web

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