Channelling can decrease pool size

Eur J Biochem. 1992 Feb 15;204(1):257-66. doi: 10.1111/j.1432-1033.1992.tb16632.x.


It is widely considered that a possible advantage of metabolite channelling, in which a product of an enzyme is transferred to the next enzyme in a metabolic pathway without being released to the 'bulk' solution, is that channelling can decrease the steady-state concentrations of 'pool' intermediates. This then spares the limited solvent capacity of the cell, and reduces the loss of pathway flux due to leakage or instability of the free intermediate. Recently, however, based on simulations of a particular model of a 'dynamic' channel, Cornish-Bowden ["Failure of channelling to maintain low concentrations of metabolic intermediates" (1991) Eur. J. Biochem. 195, 103-108] has argued that this is not in fact the case; his simulations indicated that the channel was rather ineffective at decreasing the concentration of the pool intermediate, and in some cases actually increased it. However, although his simulations were restricted to very specific thermodynamic and kinetic parameters, he generalised his conclusions, arguing that "channelling has no effect on the free concentration of a channelled intermediate in a pathway". By showing that, for a number of kinetic cases, the concentration of the pool intermediate did decrease substantially with increased channelling, we demonstrate here that the conclusion of Cornish-Bowden is not correct. In particular, if the reaction catalysed by the enzymes forming the channel has an equilibrium constant K higher than 1, and if the enzyme removing the product of the channel reaction is kinetically competent, channelling in the model system studied by Cornish-Bowden (1991) can decrease the steady-state concentration of the pool by a factor of 1000, independently of the mechanism of the terminal reaction and under conditions of essentially constant overall flux. If the channel is a 'static' channel, the decrease in the pool can be to arbitrarily low levels. This conclusion also holds for a system in which other reactions may consume the pool intermediate. Thus, channelling can maintain metabolite concentrations at low levels.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Catalysis
  • Enzymes / metabolism*
  • Kinetics
  • Models, Biological*
  • Thermodynamics


  • Enzymes