Computing optimal factories in metabolic networks with negative regulation

Spencer Krieger, John Kececioglu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Motivation: A factory in a metabolic network specifies how to produce target molecules from source compounds through biochemical reactions, properly accounting for reaction stoichiometry to conserve or not deplete intermediate metabolites. While finding factories is a fundamental problem in systems biology, available methods do not consider the number of reactions used, nor address negative regulation. Methods: We introduce the new problem of finding optimal factories that use the fewest reactions, for the first time incorporating both first- and second-order negative regulation. We model this problem with directed hypergraphs, prove it is NP-complete, solve it via mixed-integer linear programming, and accommodate second-order negative regulation by an iterative approach that generates next-best factories. Results: This optimization-based approach is remarkably fast in practice, typically finding optimal factories in a few seconds, even for metabolic networks involving tens of thousands of reactions and metabolites, as demonstrated through comprehensive experiments across all instances from standard reaction databases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)I369-I377
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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