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Estimation of fluxes through metabolic networks from redistribution patterns of (13)C has become a well developed technique in recent years. However, the approach is currently limited to systems at metabolic steady-state; dynamic changes in metabolic fluxes cannot be assessed. This is a major impediment to understanding the behaviour of metabolic networks, because steady-state is not always experimentally achievable and a great deal of information about the control hierarchy of the network can be derived from the analysis of flux dynamics. To address this issue, we have developed a method for estimating non-steady-state fluxes based on the mass-balance of mass isotopomers. This approach allows multiple mass-balance equations to be written for the change in labelling of a given metabolite pool and thereby permits over-determination of fluxes. We demonstrate how linear regression methods can be used to estimate non-steady-state fluxes from these mass balance equations. The approach can be used to calculate fluxes from both mass isotopomer and positional isotopomer labelling information and thus has general applicability to data generated from common spectrometry- or NMR-based analytical platforms. The approach is applied to a GC-MS time-series dataset of (13)C-labelling of metabolites in a heterotrophic Arabidopsis cell suspension culture. Threonine biosynthesis is used to demonstrate that non-steady-state fluxes can be successfully estimated from such data while organic acid metabolism is used to highlight some common issues that can complicate flux estimation. These include multiple pools of the same metabolite that label at different rates and carbon skeleton rearrangements.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





2313 - 2319


Arabidopsis, Carbon, Carbon Isotopes, Cells, Cultured, Citric Acid Cycle, Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry, Linear Models, Models, Biological, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Biomolecular, Oxidative Stress, Threonine