Exploring the Overproduction of Amino Acids Using the Bilevel Optimization Framework OptKnock

Priti Pharkya, Anthony P. Burgard, Costas D. Maranas

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

109 Scopus citations


In this study, we modify and extend the bilevel optimization framework OptKnock for identifying gene knockout strategies in the Escherichia coli metabolic network, leading to the overproduction of representative amino acids and key precursors for all five families. These strategies span not only the central metabolic network genes but also the amino acid biosynthetic and degradation pathways. In addition to gene deletions, the transport rates of carbon dioxide, ammonia, and oxygen, as well as the secretion pathways for key metabolites, are introduced as optimization variables in the framework. Computational results demonstrate the importance of manipulating energy-producing/consuming pathways, controlling the uptake of nitrogen and oxygen, and blocking the secretion pathways of key competing metabolites. The identified pathway modifications include not only straightforward elimination of competing reactions but also a number of nonintuitive knockouts quite distant from the amino acid-producing pathways. Specifically, OptKnock suggests three reactions (i.e., pyruvate kinase, phosphotransacetylase, and ATPase) for deletion, in addition to the straightforward elimination of 2-ketoglutarate dehydrogenase, to generate a glutamate-overproducing mutant. Similarly, phosphofructokinase and ATPase are identified as promising knockout targets to complement the removal of pyruvate formate lyase and pyruvate dehydrogenase for enhancing the yield of alanine. Although OptKnock in its present form does not consider regulatory constraints, it does provide useful suggestions largely in agreement with existing practices and, more importantly, introduces a framework for incorporating additional modeling refinements as they become available.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)887-899
Number of pages13
JournalBiotechnology and bioengineering
Issue number7
StatePublished - Dec 30 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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