Although control of fluxes and concentrations tends to be distributed rather than confined to a single rate-limiting enzyme, the extent of control can differ widely between enzymes in a metabolic network. In some cases, there are enzymes that lack control completely. This paper identifies one surprising origin of such lack of control: If, in a metabolic system, there is a metabolite that affects the catalytic rate of only one enzyme, the corresponding enzyme cannot control any metabolic variable other than the concentration of that metabolite. We call such enzymes 'slave enzymes', and the corresponding metabolites 'slave metabolites'. Implications of the existence of slave enzymes for the control properties of enzymes further down the metabolic pathway are discussed and examined for the glycolytic pathway of yeast. Inadvertent assumptions in metabolic models may cause the latter incorrectly to calculate absence of metabolic control. The phenomenon of slave enzymes may well be important in enhancing metabolic signal transduction.
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