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Flux balance analysis of plant metabolism is an established method for predicting metabolic flux phenotypes and for exploring the way in which the plant metabolic network delivers specific outcomes in different cell types, tissues, and temporal phases. A recurring theme is the need to explore the flexibility of the network in meeting its objectives and, in particular, to establish the extent to which alternative pathways can contribute to achieving specific outcomes. Unfortunately, predictions from conventional flux balance analysis minimize the simultaneous operation of alternative pathways, but by introducing flux-weighting factors to allow for the variable intrinsic cost of supporting each flux, it is possible to activate different pathways in individual simulations and, thus, to explore alternative pathways by averaging thousands of simulations. This new method has been applied to a diel genome-scale model of Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) leaf metabolism to explore the flexibility of the network in meeting the metabolic requirements of the leaf in the light. This identified alternative flux modes in the Calvin-Benson cycle revealed the potential for alternative transitory carbon stores in leaves and led to predictions about the light-dependent contribution of alternative electron flow pathways and futile cycles in energy rebalancing. Notable features of the analysis include the light-dependent tradeoff between the use of carbohydrates and four-carbon organic acids as transitory storage forms and the way in which multiple pathways for the consumption of ATP and NADPH can contribute to the balancing of the requirements of photosynthetic metabolism with the energy available from photon capture.

Original publication




Journal article


Plant Physiol

Publication Date





1671 - 1682


Adenosine Triphosphate, Arabidopsis, Carbon, Light, Metabolic Flux Analysis, Metabolic Networks and Pathways, Models, Biological, NADP, Phenotype, Photosynthesis, Plant Leaves