A versatile active learning workflow for optimization of genetic and metabolic networks

Nat Commun. 2022 Jul 5;13(1):3876. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-31245-z.


Optimization of biological networks is often limited by wet lab labor and cost, and the lack of convenient computational tools. Here, we describe METIS, a versatile active machine learning workflow with a simple online interface for the data-driven optimization of biological targets with minimal experiments. We demonstrate our workflow for various applications, including cell-free transcription and translation, genetic circuits, and a 27-variable synthetic CO2-fixation cycle (CETCH cycle), improving these systems between one and two orders of magnitude. For the CETCH cycle, we explore 1025 conditions with only 1,000 experiments to yield the most efficient CO2-fixation cascade described to date. Beyond optimization, our workflow also quantifies the relative importance of individual factors to the performance of a system identifying unknown interactions and bottlenecks. Overall, our workflow opens the way for convenient optimization and prototyping of genetic and metabolic networks with customizable adjustments according to user experience, experimental setup, and laboratory facilities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carbon Dioxide*
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways* / genetics
  • Supervised Machine Learning
  • Workflow


  • Carbon Dioxide