An environmental perspective on metabolism

Thomas Handorf, Nils Christian, Oliver Ebenhoeh, Daniel Kahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


In principle the knowledge of an organism's metabolic network allows to infer its biosynthetic capabilities. Handorf et al. [2005. Expanding metabolic networks: scopes of compounds, robustness, and evolution. J. Mol. Evol. 61, 498-512] developed a method of network expansion generating the set of all possible metabolites that can be produced from a set of compounds, given the structure of a metabolic network. Here we investigate the inverse problem: which chemical compounds or sets of compounds must be provided as external resources in order to sustain the growth or maintenance of an organism, given the structure of its metabolic network? Although this problem is highly combinatorial, we show that it is possible to calculate locally minimal nutrient sets that can be interpreted in terms of resource types. Using these types we predict broad nutritional requirements for 447 organisms, providing clues for possible environments from the knowledge of their metabolic networks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)530-537
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Issue number3
Early online date4 Nov 2007
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jun 2008


  • nutrient
  • scope
  • metabolic network
  • evolution


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