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THE EVOLUTION OF GENES IN BRANCHED METABOLIC PATHWAYS

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Abstract

Simulation models of the evolution of genes in a branched metabolic pathway subject to stabilizing selection on flux are described and analyzed. The models are based either on metabolic control theory (MCT), with the assumption that enzymes are far from saturation, or on Michaelis–Menten kinetics, which allows for saturation and near saturation. Several predictions emerge from the models: (1) flux control evolves to be concentrated at pathway branch points, including the first enzyme in the pathway. (2) When flux is far from its optimum, adaptive substitutions occur disproportionately often in branching enzymes. (3) When flux is near its optimum, adaptive substitutions occur disproportionately often in nonbranching enzymes. (4) Slightly deleterious substitutions occur disproportionately often in nonbranching enzymes. (5) In terms of both flux control and patterns of substitution, pathway branches are similar to those predicted for linear pathways. These predictions provide null hypotheses for empirical examination of the evolution of genes in metabolic pathways.

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