Regulation of metabolic networks: understanding metabolic complexity in the systems biology era


Author for correspondence: Lee J. Sweetlove Tel: +44 (0)1865 275137 Fax: +44 (0)1865 275074 Email:



  • Summary 1

  • I. Introduction 1
  • II. The science of networks 2
  • III. Analysis of plant metabolic networks 5
  • IV. Conclusion 12
  • Acknowledgements 12

  • References 12


Metabolism is one of the best recognised networks within biological systems, but our understanding of metabolic regulation has been limited by a failure to consider regulation within the context of the whole network. With recent advances in theoretical aspects of network thinking and a postgenomic landscape in which our ability to quantify molecular changes at a systems level is unsurpassed, the time is ripe for the development of a new level of understanding of the regulation of plant metabolic networks. Theoretical advances such as the formal description of ‘scale-free’ networks have provided explanations for network behaviour (such as robustness). In parallel, the appreciation of the importance of new levels of the metabolic regulatory hierarchy (such as protein–protein interaction) and the continuing development of global profiling technologies is generating a system-wide molecular data set of increasing resolution. In this review we will argue that the integration of these different aspects of metabolic research will bring about a step change in our understanding of the regulation of metabolic networks in plants.