Cellular trade-offs and optimal resource allocation during cyanobacterial diurnal growth

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 Aug 1;114(31):E6457-E6465. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1617508114. Epub 2017 Jul 18.


Cyanobacteria are an integral part of Earth's biogeochemical cycles and a promising resource for the synthesis of renewable bioproducts from atmospheric CO2 Growth and metabolism of cyanobacteria are inherently tied to the diurnal rhythm of light availability. As yet, however, insight into the stoichiometric and energetic constraints of cyanobacterial diurnal growth is limited. Here, we develop a computational framework to investigate the optimal allocation of cellular resources during diurnal phototrophic growth using a genome-scale metabolic reconstruction of the cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus PCC 7942. We formulate phototrophic growth as an autocatalytic process and solve the resulting time-dependent resource allocation problem using constraint-based analysis. Based on a narrow and well-defined set of parameters, our approach results in an ab initio prediction of growth properties over a full diurnal cycle. The computational model allows us to study the optimality of metabolite partitioning during diurnal growth. The cyclic pattern of glycogen accumulation, an emergent property of the model, has timing characteristics that are in qualitative agreement with experimental findings. The approach presented here provides insight into the time-dependent resource allocation problem of phototrophic diurnal growth and may serve as a general framework to assess the optimality of metabolic strategies that evolved in phototrophic organisms under diurnal conditions.

Keywords: bioenergetics; circadian clock; constraint-based analysis; metabolism; whole-cell models.