Determining host metabolic limitations on viral replication via integrated modeling and experimental perturbation

PLoS Comput Biol. 2012;8(10):e1002746. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002746. Epub 2012 Oct 18.


Viral replication relies on host metabolic machinery and precursors to produce large numbers of progeny - often very rapidly. A fundamental example is the infection of Escherichia coli by bacteriophage T7. The resource draw imposed by viral replication represents a significant and complex perturbation to the extensive and interconnected network of host metabolic pathways. To better understand this system, we have integrated a set of structured ordinary differential equations quantifying T7 replication and an E. coli flux balance analysis metabolic model. Further, we present here an integrated simulation algorithm enforcing mutual constraint by the models across the entire duration of phage replication. This method enables quantitative dynamic prediction of virion production given only specification of host nutritional environment, and predictions compare favorably to experimental measurements of phage replication in multiple environments. The level of detail of our computational predictions facilitates exploration of the dynamic changes in host metabolic fluxes that result from viral resource consumption, as well as analysis of the limiting processes dictating maximum viral progeny production. For example, although it is commonly assumed that viral infection dynamics are predominantly limited by the amount of protein synthesis machinery in the host, our results suggest that in many cases metabolic limitation is at least as strict. Taken together, these results emphasize the importance of considering viral infections in the context of host metabolism.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Bacteriophage T7 / metabolism
  • Bacteriophage T7 / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Culture Media
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / virology
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / physiology*
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways
  • Models, Biological*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Systems Biology
  • Virus Replication / physiology*


  • Culture Media