Determination of confidence intervals of metabolic fluxes estimated from stable isotope measurements

Metab Eng. 2006 Jul;8(4):324-37. doi: 10.1016/j.ymben.2006.01.004. Epub 2006 Apr 24.


Metabolic fluxes, estimated from stable isotope studies, provide a key to quantifying physiology in fields ranging from metabolic engineering to the analysis of human metabolic diseases. A serious drawback of the flux estimation method in current use is that it does not produce confidence limits for the estimated fluxes. Without this information it is difficult to interpret flux results and expand the physiological significance of flux studies. To address this shortcoming we derived analytical expressions of flux sensitivities with respect to isotope measurements and measurement errors. These tools allow the determination of local statistical properties of fluxes and relative importance of measurements. Furthermore, we developed an efficient algorithm to determine accurate flux confidence intervals and demonstrated that confidence intervals obtained with this method closely approximate true flux uncertainty. In contrast, confidence intervals approximated from local estimates of standard deviations are inappropriate due to inherent system nonlinearities. We applied these methods to analyze the statistical significance and confidence of estimated gluconeogenesis fluxes from human studies with [U-13C]glucose as tracer and found true limits for flux estimation in specific human isotopic protocols.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blood Glucose / analysis*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Metabolic Clearance Rate
  • Models, Biological*
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Radioisotope Dilution Technique*


  • Blood Glucose
  • Glucose