2H and 13C metabolic flux analysis elucidates in vivo thermodynamics of the ED pathway in Zymomonas mobilis

Metab Eng. 2019 Jul:54:301-316. doi: 10.1016/j.ymben.2019.05.006. Epub 2019 May 10.


Zymomonas mobilis is an industrially relevant bacterium notable for its ability to rapidly ferment simple sugars to ethanol using the Entner-Doudoroff (ED) glycolytic pathway, an alternative to the well-known Embden-Meyerhof-Parnas (EMP) pathway used by most organisms. Recent computational studies have predicted that the ED pathway is substantially more thermodynamically favorable than the EMP pathway, a potential factor explaining the high glycolytic rate in Z. mobilis. Here, to investigate the in vivo thermodynamics of the ED pathway and central carbon metabolism in Z. mobilis, we implemented a network-level approach that integrates quantitative metabolomics with 2H and 13C metabolic flux analysis to estimate reversibility and Gibbs free energy (ΔG) of metabolic reactions. This analysis revealed a strongly thermodynamically favorable ED pathway in Z. mobilis that is nearly twice as favorable as the EMP pathway in E. coli or S. cerevisiae. The in vivo step-by-step thermodynamic profile of the ED pathway was highly similar to previous in silico predictions, indicating that maximizing ΔG for each pathway step likely constitutes a cellular objective in Z. mobilis. Our analysis also revealed novel features of Z. mobilis metabolism, including phosphofructokinase-like enzyme activity, tricarboxylic acid cycle anaplerosis via PEP carboxylase, and a metabolic imbalance in the pentose phosphate pathway resulting in excretion of shikimate pathway intermediates. The integrated approach we present here for in vivo ΔG quantitation may be applied to the thermodynamic profiling of pathways and metabolic networks in other microorganisms and will contribute to the development of quantitative models of metabolism.

Keywords: Biofuels; Gibbs energy; Isotope tracers; MFA; Mass spectrometry; Microbial metabolism.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins* / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins* / metabolism
  • Carbon Isotopes / chemistry
  • Carbon Isotopes / metabolism
  • Deuterium / chemistry
  • Deuterium / metabolism
  • Glycolysis
  • Metabolic Flux Analysis*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Pentose Phosphate Pathway
  • Thermodynamics
  • Zymomonas* / genetics
  • Zymomonas* / metabolism


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Deuterium