Genomewide landscape of gene-metabolome associations in Escherichia coli

Mol Syst Biol. 2017 Jan 16;13(1):907. doi: 10.15252/msb.20167150.


Metabolism is one of the best-understood cellular processes whose network topology of enzymatic reactions is determined by an organism's genome. The influence of genes on metabolite levels, however, remains largely unknown, particularly for the many genes encoding non-enzymatic proteins. Serendipitously, genomewide association studies explore the relationship between genetic variants and metabolite levels, but a comprehensive interaction network has remained elusive even for the simplest single-celled organisms. Here, we systematically mapped the association between > 3,800 single-gene deletions in the bacterium Escherichia coli and relative concentrations of > 7,000 intracellular metabolite ions. Beyond expected metabolic changes in the proximity to abolished enzyme activities, the association map reveals a largely unknown landscape of gene-metabolite interactions that are not represented in metabolic models. Therefore, the map provides a unique resource for assessing the genetic basis of metabolic changes and conversely hypothesizing metabolic consequences of genetic alterations. We illustrate this by predicting metabolism-related functions of 72 so far not annotated genes and by identifying key genes mediating the cellular response to environmental perturbations.

Keywords: GWAS; functional genomics; interaction network; metabolism; metabolomics.

MeSH terms

  • Epistasis, Genetic
  • Escherichia coli / genetics*
  • Gene Deletion
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • Genome, Bacterial
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways*
  • Metabolomics / methods*