Since most bio-production processes are conducted in a batch or fed-batch manner, the evaluation of metabolism with respect to time is highly desirable. Toward this aim, we applied 13C-metabolic flux analysis to nonstationary conditions by measuring the mass isotopomer distribution of intracellular metabolites. We performed our analysis on batch cultures of wild-type Escherichia coli, as well as on Pyk and Pgi mutants, obtained the fluxes and metabolite concentrations as a function of time. Our results for the wild-type indicated that the TCA cycle flux tended to increase during growth on glucose. Following glucose exhaustion, cells controlled the branch ratio between the glyoxylate pathway and the TCA cycle, depending on the availability of acetate. In the Pyk mutant, the concentrations of glycolytic intermediates changed drastically over time due to the dumping and feedback inhibition caused by PEP accumulation. Nevertheless, the flux distribution and free amino acid concentrations changed little. The growth rate and the fluxes remained constant in the Pgi mutant and the glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase reaction was the rate-limiting step. The measured fluxes were compared with those predicted by flux balance analysis using maximization of biomass yield or ATP production. Our findings indicate that the objective function of biosynthesis became less important as time proceeds on glucose in the wild-type, while it remained highly important in the Pyk mutant. Furthermore, ATP production was the primary objective function in the Pgi mutant. This study demonstrates how cells adjust their metabolism in response to environmental changes and/or genetic perturbations in the batch cultivation.
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