The logic of metabolism and its fuzzy consequences



Intermediary metabolism molecules are orchestrated into logical pathways stemming from history (L-amino acids, d-sugars) and dynamic constraints (hydrolysis of pyrophosphate or amide groups is the driving force of anabolism). Beside essential metabolites, numerous variants derive from programmed or accidental changes. Broken down, variants enter standard pathways, producing further variants. Macromolecule modification alters enzyme reactions specificity. Metabolism conform thermodynamic laws, precluding strict accuracy. Hence, for each regular pathway, a wealth of variants inputs and produces metabolites that are similar to but not the exact replicas of core metabolites. As corollary, a shadow, paralogous metabolism, is associated to standard metabolism. We focus on a logic of paralogous metabolism based on diversion of the core metabolic mimics into pathways where they are modified to minimize their input in the core pathways where they create havoc. We propose that a significant proportion of paralogues of well-characterized enzymes have evolved as the natural way to cope with paralogous metabolites. A second type of denouement uses a process where protecting/deprotecting unwanted metabolites – conceptually similar to the procedure used in the laboratory of an organic chemist – is used to enter a completely new catabolic pathway.