Team, Visitors, External Collaborators
Overall Objectives
Research Program
Application Domains
New Software and Platforms
New Results
Bilateral Contracts and Grants with Industry
Partnerships and Cooperations
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Section: New Results

Axis 2: Metabolism and post-transcriptional regulation

Multi-objective metabolic mixed integer optimisation with an application to yeast strain engineering In a paper submitted and already available in bioRxiv (, we explored the concept of multi-objective optimisation in the field of metabolic engineering when both continuous and integer decision variables are involved in the model. In particular, we proposed a multi-objective model which may be used to suggest reaction deletions that maximise and/or minimise several functions simultaneously. The applications may include, among others, the concurrent maximisation of a bioproduct and of biomass, or maximisation of a bioproduct while minimising the formation of a given by-product, two common requirements in microbial metabolic engineering. Production of ethanol by the widely used cell factory Saccharomyces cerevisiae was adopted as a case study to demonstrate the usefulness of the proposed approach in identifying genetic manipulations that improve productivity and yield of this economically highly relevant bioproduct. We did an in vivo validation and we could show that some of the predicted deletions exhibit increased ethanol levels in comparison with the wild-type strain. The multi-objective programming framework we developed, called Momo , is open-source and uses PolySCIP as underlying multi-objective solver. This is part of the work of Ricardo de Andrade, who was until the end of 2018 postdoc at Unversity of São Paulo with Roberto Marcondes, and in ERABLE. It is joint work with Susana Vinga, external collaborator of ERABLE and partner of the Inria Associated Team Compasso.

Metabolic shifts Analysis of differential expression of genes is often performed to understand how the metabolic activity of an organism is impacted by a perturbation. However, because the system of metabolic regulation is complex and all changes are not directly reflected in the expression levels, interpreting these data can be difficult. In [26], we presented a new algorithm and computational tool that uses a genome-scale metabolic reconstruction to infer metabolic changes from differential expression data. Using the framework of constraint-based analysis, our method produces a qualitative hypothesis of a change in metabolic activity. In other words, each reaction of the network is inferred to have increased, decreased, or remained unchanged in flux. In contrast to similar previous approaches, our method does not require a biological objective function and does not assign on/off activity states to genes. An implementation is provided and is available online at the address We applied the method to three published datasets to show that it successfully accomplishes its two main goals: confirming or rejecting metabolic changes suggested by differentially expressed genes based on how well they fit in as parts of a coordinated metabolic change, as well as inferring changes in reactions whose genes did not undergo differential expression. The above work was also part of the PhD of Taneli Pusa [3] defended in February 2019.

Metabolic games Game theory is a branch of applied mathematics originally developed to describe and reason about situations where two or more rational agents, the “homo economicus”, are faced with choices and have potentially conflicting goals. All participants want to maximise their own well-being, but are doing so taking into account that everyone else is doing the same. Thus paradoxical, suboptimal, outcomes are possible and even common. Evolutionary game theory was born out of the realisation that rational choice can be replaced by natural selection: in the course of evolution the strategy (phenotype) that would “win” the game would prevail by simply proliferating more successfully thanks to its success in the “game”. It turns out that phenotype prediction in the context of metabolic networks is exactly the type of problem that evolutionary game theory was meant to answer: given a set of choices (as defined by a metabolic network reconstruction), what will be the actual metabolism observed? In other words, if we culture a set of organisms together in a given medium, which are the phenotype(s) that emerge as winners? In [27], we sought to provide a short introduction to both evolutionary game theory and its use in the context of metabolic modelling. This work was also part of the PhD of Taneli Pusa [3].