Identifying model error in metabolic flux analysis - a generalized least squares approach

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© 2016 The Author(s). Background: The estimation of intracellular flux through traditional metabolic flux analysis (MFA) using an overdetermined system of equations is a well established practice in metabolic engineering. Despite the continued evolution of the methodology since its introduction, there has been little focus on validation and identification of poor model fit outside of identifying "gross measurement error". The growing complexity of metabolic models, which are increasingly generated from genome-level data, has necessitated robust validation that can directly assess model fit. Results: In this work, MFA calculation is framed as a generalized least squares (GLS) problem, highlighting the applicability of the common t-test for model validation. To differentiate between measurement and model error, we simulate ideal flux profiles directly from the model, perturb them with estimated measurement error, and compare their validation to real data. Application of this strategy to an established Chinese Hamster Ovary (CHO) cell model shows how fluxes validated by traditional means may be largely non-significant due to a lack of model fit. With further simulation, we explore how t-test significance relates to calculation error and show that fluxes found to be non-significant have 2-4 fold larger error (if measurement uncertainty is in the 5-10 % range). Conclusions: The proposed validation method goes beyond traditional detection of "gross measurement error" to identify lack of fit between model and data. Although the focus of this work is on t-test validation and traditional MFA, the presented framework is readily applicable to other regression analysis methods and MFA formulations.




Sokolenko, S., Quattrociocchi, M., & Aucoin, M. G. (2016). Identifying model error in metabolic flux analysis - a generalized least squares approach. BMC Systems Biology, 10(1).

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