Constraint-based approaches have been used for integrating data in large-scale metabolic networks to obtain insights into metabolism of various organisms. Due to the underlying steady-state assumption, these approaches are usually not suited for making predictions about metabolite levels. Here, we ask whether we can make inferences about the variability of metabolite levels from a constraint-based analysis based on the integration of transcriptomics data. To this end, we analyze time-resolved transcriptomics and metabolomics data from Arabidopsis thaliana under a set of eight different light and temperature conditions. In a previous study, the gene expression data have already been integrated in a genome-scale metabolic network to predict pathways, termed modulators and sustainers, which are differentially regulated with respect to a biochemically meaningful data-driven null model. Here, we present a follow-up analysis which bridges the gap between flux- and metabolite-centric methods. One of our main findings demonstrates that under certain environmental conditions, the levels of metabolites acting as substrates in modulators or sustainers show significantly lower temporal variations with respect to the remaining measured metabolites. This observation is discussed within the context of a systems-view of plasticity and robustness of metabolite contents and pathway fluxes. Our study paves the way for investigating the existence of similar principles in other species for which both genome-scale networks and high-throughput metabolomics data of high quality are becoming increasingly available. © 2014 Töpfer et al.
Töpfer, N., Scossa, F., Fernie, A., & Nikoloski, Z. (2014). Variability of Metabolite Levels Is Linked to Differential Metabolic Pathways in Arabidopsis’s Responses to Abiotic Stresses. PLoS Computational Biology, 10(6). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003656