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Stable isotope labelling experiments provide many opportunities for probing metabolic pathways. One goal of such experiments is to define the metabolic phenotype of an organism in terms of the fluxes supported by the entire metabolic network. Metabolic flux analysis (MFA) is used routinely in prokaryotes, but its application to plants is more challenging. Here we examine the status of MFA in plants, highlighting difficulties that hinder wider exploitation of the technique. We conclude that simulation of network fluxes using constraints-based modelling offers a more versatile approach for exploring the capabilities of a network, and that MFA might be best used to probe the interesting features that simulation reveals.

Original publication




Journal article


J Exp Bot

Publication Date



flux balance analysis, metabolic flux analysis, metabolic network, metabolic phenotype, non-stationary analysis, steady-state analysis