Accelerating flux balance calculations in genome-scale metabolic models by localizing the application of loopless constraints

Siu H.J. Chan, Lin Wang, Satyakam Dash, Costas D. Maranas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background: Genome-scale metabolic network models and constraint-based modeling techniques have become important tools for analyzing cellular metabolism. Thermodynamically infeasible cycles (TICs) causing unbounded metabolic flux ranges are often encountered. TICs satisfy the mass balance and directionality constraints but violate the second law of thermodynamics. Current practices involve implementing additional constraints to ensure not only optimal but also loopless flux distributions. However, the mixed integer linear programming problems required to solve become computationally intractable for genome-scale metabolic models. Results: We aimed to identify the fewest needed constraints sufficient for optimality under the loopless requirement. We found that loopless constraints are required only for the reactions that share elementary flux modes representing TICs with reactions that are part of the objective function. We put forth the concept of localized loopless constraints (LLCs) to enforce this minimal required set of loopless constraints. By combining with a novel procedure for minimal null-space calculation, the computational time for loopless flux variability analysis (ll-FVA) is reduced by a factor of 10-150 compared to the original loopless constraints and by 4-20 times compared to the current fastest method Fast-SNP with the percent improvement increasing with model size. Importantly, LLCs offer a scalable strategy for loopless flux calculations for multi-compartment/multi-organism models of large sizes, for example, shortening the CPU time for ll-FVA from 35 h to less than 2 h for a model with more than104 reactions. Availability and implementation: Matlab functions are available in the Supplementary Material or at Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4248-4255
Number of pages8
JournalBioinformatics (Oxford, England)
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 15 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Computational Mathematics


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