• Elementary mode analysis;
  • Ensemble metabolic modeling;
  • Minimal cut set;
  • Rational strain design;
  • Systematic multiple enzyme targeting (SMET)


Identifying multiple enzyme targets for metabolic engineering is very critical for redirecting cellular metabolism to achieve desirable phenotypes, e.g., overproduction of a target chemical. The challenge is to determine which enzymes and how much of these enzymes should be manipulated by adding, deleting, under-, and/or over-expressing associated genes. In this study, we report the development of a systematic multiple enzyme targeting method (SMET), to rationally design optimal strains for target chemical overproduction. The SMET method combines both elementary mode analysis and ensemble metabolic modeling to derive SMET metrics including l-values and c-values that can identify rate-limiting reaction steps and suggest which enzymes and how much of these enzymes to manipulate to enhance product yields, titers, and productivities. We illustrated, tested, and validated the SMET method by analyzing two networks, a simple network for concept demonstration and an Escherichia coli metabolic network for aromatic amino acid overproduction. The SMET method could systematically predict simultaneous multiple enzyme targets and their optimized expression levels, consistent with experimental data from the literature, without performing an iterative sequence of single-enzyme perturbation. The SMET method was much more efficient and effective than single-enzyme perturbation in terms of computation time and finding improved solutions.