Modeling networks of coupled enzymatic reactions using the total quasi-steady state approximation

PLoS Comput Biol. 2007 Mar 16;3(3):e45. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.0030045.


In metabolic networks, metabolites are usually present in great excess over the enzymes that catalyze their interconversion, and describing the rates of these reactions by using the Michaelis-Menten rate law is perfectly valid. This rate law assumes that the concentration of enzyme-substrate complex (C) is much less than the free substrate concentration (S0). However, in protein interaction networks, the enzymes and substrates are all proteins in comparable concentrations, and neglecting C with respect to S0 is not valid. Borghans, DeBoer, and Segel developed an alternative description of enzyme kinetics that is valid when C is comparable to S0. We extend this description, which Borghans et al. call the total quasi-steady state approximation, to networks of coupled enzymatic reactions. First, we analyze an isolated Goldbeter-Koshland switch when enzymes and substrates are present in comparable concentrations. Then, on the basis of a real example of the molecular network governing cell cycle progression, we couple two and three Goldbeter-Koshland switches together to study the effects of feedback in networks of protein kinases and phosphatases. Our analysis shows that the total quasi-steady state approximation provides an excellent kinetic formalism for protein interaction networks, because (1) it unveils the modular structure of the enzymatic reactions, (2) it suggests a simple algorithm to formulate correct kinetic equations, and (3) contrary to classical Michaelis-Menten kinetics, it succeeds in faithfully reproducing the dynamics of the network both qualitatively and quantitatively.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Homeostasis / physiology*
  • Kinetics
  • Models, Biological*
  • Multienzyme Complexes / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Multienzyme Complexes