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The challenge and potential of photosynthesis: unique considerations for metabolic flux measurements in photosynthetic microorganisms

Sake, Cara L., Metcalf, Alexander J., Boyle, Nanette R.
Biotechnology letters 2019 v.41 no.1 pp. 35-45
biochemical pathways, feedstocks, isotopes, metabolic flux analysis, microorganisms, models, photosynthesis
Photosynthetic microorganisms have the potential for sustainable production of chemical feedstocks and products but have had limited success due to a lack of tools and deeper understanding of metabolic pathway regulation. The application of instationary metabolic flux analysis (INST-MFA) to photosynthetic microorganisms has allowed researchers to quantify fluxes and identify bottlenecks and metabolic inefficiencies to improve strain performance or gain insight into cellular physiology. Additionally, flux measurements can also highlight deviations between measured and predicted fluxes, revealing weaknesses in metabolic models and highlighting areas where a lack of understanding still exists. In this review, we outline the experimental steps necessary to successfully perform photosynthetic flux experiments and analysis. We also discuss the challenges unique to photosynthetic microorganisms and how to account for them, including: light supply, quenching, concentration, extraction, analysis, and flux calculation. We hope that this will enable a larger number of researchers to successfully apply isotope assisted metabolic flux analysis (¹³C-MFA) to their favorite photosynthetic organism.