Linear analysis near a steadystate of biochemical networks: control analysis, correlation metrics and circuit theory
 William J Heuett^{1}Email author,
 Daniel A Beard^{2} and
 Hong Qian^{3}
DOI: 10.1186/17520509244
© Heuett et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2008
Received: 8 January 2008
Accepted: 15 May 2008
Published: 15 May 2008
Abstract
Background:
Several approaches, including metabolic control analysis (MCA), flux balance analysis (FBA), correlation metric construction (CMC), and biochemical circuit theory (BCT), have been developed for the quantitative analysis of complex biochemical networks. Here, we present a comprehensive theory of linear analysis for nonequilibrium steadystate (NESS) biochemical reaction networks that unites these disparate approaches in a common mathematical framework and thermodynamic basis.
Results:
In this theory a number of relationships between key matrices are introduced: the matrix A obtained in the standard, lineardynamicstability analysis of the steadystate can be decomposed as A = SR^{ T }where R and S are directly related to the elasticitycoefficient matrix for the fluxes and chemical potentials in MCA, respectively; the controlcoefficients for the fluxes and chemical potentials can be written in terms of R^{ T }BS and S^{ T }BS respectively where matrix B is the inverse of A; the matrix S is precisely the stoichiometric matrix in FBA; and the matrix e^{ A t }plays a central role in CMC.
Conclusion:
One key finding that emerges from this analysis is that the wellknown summation theorems in MCA take different forms depending on whether metabolic steadystate is maintained by flux injection or concentration clamping. We demonstrate that if ratelimiting steps exist in a biochemical pathway, they are the steps with smallest biochemical conductances and largest flux controlcoefficients. We hypothesize that biochemical networks for cellular signaling have a different strategy for minimizing energy waste and being efficient than do biochemical networks for biosynthesis. We also discuss the intimate relationship between MCA and biochemical systems analysis (BSA).
Background
Developing methodologies for quantitative analysis, both experimental and mathematical, of complex biochemical networks has become one of the central themes of postgenomic biochemistry and mathematical biology. Several disparate approaches, including metabolic control analysis (MCA) [1, 2], flux balance analysis (FBA) [3, 4], and correlation metric construction (CMC) [5, 6], share many commonalities. The objective of this work is to provide a unifying mathematical framework and a thermodynamic basis for these approaches. The thermodynamic basis is the nonequilibrium steadystate (NESS) theory [7, 8] originally developed to describe macromolecular, freeenergy transduction [9–13], and the mathematical methods are based on linear analysis near a NESS.
The physical concept of a NESS (also known simply as a steadystate in the MCA community) applies to that of a driven system, such as a living organism, with a constant flow of matter (transforming nutrients to waste) through the system and a corresponding dissipation of free energy [9]. Even though a NESS looks remarkably similar to a thermodynamic equilibrium, in that chemical concentrations reach stationary values, the concentrations are maintained constant in a NESS by balancing influxes and effluxes, rather than by balancing the forward and backward fluxes of each elementary reaction as in thermodynamic equilibrium. To an observer concerned only with the chemical concentrations, a NESS would seem to be a true equilibrium; but, in fact, it represents a pseudoequilibrium, where the work done to drive the system appears as heat, and deserves further consideration [9].
We distinguish between two types of linear analysis: (i) linear stability analysis [14], and (ii) control analysis (or sensitivity analysis) that addresses how the steadystate shifts in response to certain perturbations to the system. These perturbations may be deterministic – leading to MCA – or stochastic – leading to CMC. As expected, the matrix A obtained in linear stability analysis, the flux controlcoefficient matrix C in MCA, the stoichiometric matrix S of FBA, and the correlation matrix R from CMC are intimately related. We develop the relationships in the context of complex biochemical networks and their NESS thermodynamics. We show that all the key matrices in MCA and CMC can be computed if one knows the fluxes, chemical potential differences, and the stoichiometric matrix.
The theoretical concept of a NESS provides valuable mathematical and thermodynamic properties. Although many of the approaches mentioned above have provided a mathematical treatment of NESS, many have never explicitly taken the related thermodynamics into account. The key insight is to consider concentrations as measures of potentials, providing a relationship between potential differences (voltages), fluxes (currents), and resistances. It becomes immediately clear that the resistances are related to reaction effectors, such as the expression levels of enzymes, that affect both the forward and backward fluxes of a given reaction, but do not change the chemical potential difference. It is this thermodynamic perspective of a NESS that can be used to develop a comprehensive theory that unites these approaches.
Furthermore, if the standardstate free energy of reaction Δμ^{ o }is known from equilibrium thermodynamics, then ${e}^{(\Delta \mu \Delta {\mu}^{o})/{k}_{B}T}$ determines the ratio of the metabolites' concentrations, products to reactants, in NESS.
In many theoretical approaches, metabolic networks and signaling pathways are often separated into disparate mechanisms with only peripheral interactions. This is far from reality, however, as these mechanisms are intimately intertwined and often indistinguishable. For example, in wholebody metabolism, glucose and fatty acids serve as the fuel for cellular metabolism, but also as signals for insulin secretion in pancreatic βcells and ketogenesis in hepatocytes, where cellular organelles, such as mitochondria, play a key role in the handshake between metabolism and signaling. Ultimately, our goal is to understand how these cellular systems behave in response to stress and disease [17]. It is in applying the unified mathematical framework that includes the thermodynamic perspective to these processes that we believe the most significant contributions will be made.
Summary and comparison table listing the relationship between the elasticity and control coefficient matrices and the stoichiometric (S) and correlation (R) matrices, where A = SR^{ T }and B = A^{1}
Symbol  Coefficient  Relationship 

ϵ  local elasticity  (dg J)^{1} R^{ T } 
ε  steadystate elasticity  (dg J)^{1} R^{ T }B (dg B)^{1} 
$\widehat{C}$  concentration control  BS (dg J) 
C  flux control  I  (dg J)^{1} R^{ T }BS (dg J) 
ϵ ^{Δμ}  biochemical potential local elasticity  k_{ B }T (dg Δ μ)^{1} S^{ T } 
ε ^{Δμ}  biochemical potential steadystate elasticity  k_{ B }T (dg Δ μ)^{1} S^{ T }B (dg B)^{1} 
C ^{Δμ}  biochemical potential control  k_{ B }T (dg Δ μ)^{1} S^{ T }BS (dg J) 
Basic kinetic equations for biochemical networks
Some of the integer ν's and κ's can be zero. The N × M matrix S = κ ν is known as the stoichiometric matrix. Eq. (2) assumes that the forward and backward reaction kinetics are characterized by the constants ${k}_{+}^{j}$ and ${k}_{}^{j}$. In cases where the kinetic scheme involves intermediate steps (e.g., enzyme binding), each of the intermediate steps can be incorporated as reactions in the form of Eq. (2), requiring additional kinetic parameters, and the stoichiometric matrix can be constructed to include elementary reactions representing actual interaction events. Segel [18], for example, details how the MichaelisMenten mechanism is expressed in terms of Eq. (2).
Then Eq. (3) becomes d x/dt = SJ + J^{ e }, in which x and J^{ e }are Ndimensional column vectors, and J is an Mdimensional column vector.
In a closed reaction system, J^{ e }= 0. In this case, it can be shown that thermodynamic equilibrium is the only positive stationary solution to Eq. (3): the internal fluxes J = φ_{+}  φ_{} = 0 for each and every reaction. For a closed biochemical reaction system, since all the fluxes are necessarily zero in its unique equilibrium (for each given set of parameters; unique in the dynamic sense), all the control coefficients are necessarily zero. Therefore, in a NESS, at least one injection flux and one efflux are nonzero (${J}_{i}^{e}$ ≠ 0), or certain concentrations x_{ i }are held at constant levels. The former case is referred to as "external flux injection," while the latter is referred to as "external concentration clamping." A distinction between these two "forcing" mechanisms greatly clarifies many controversial issues concerning NESS.
Steadystate concentrations
giving rise to the concept of chemical equilibrium constants. Such a system of biochemical reactions is nondissipative and is associated with a number of conserved quantities. An essential mathematical characteristic of the closed system is that its equilibrium point is degenerate (neutrally stable on a certain manifold), i.e., there is no unique stationary solution for different initial conditions.
For an open system that approaches a NESS, the stationary solution is not usually degenerate. If we assume {${x}_{i}^{\ast}$} is an asymptotically stable NESS, small differences in the initial condition should lead to the same NESS. We use the notations $\mathcal{S}$ to denote the set of concentrations of internal species and $\mathcal{I}$ to denote the concentrations of external species which are clamped or independently varied.
A = {A_{ ij }} is called the linear stability matrix. We introduce the N × M matrix R = $\{{R}_{ij}={\nu}_{i}^{j}{\varphi}_{+}^{j}{\kappa}_{i}^{j}{\varphi}_{}^{j}\}$, such that A = SR^{ T }. We also denote A^{1} = B.
If the nonlinear dynamics scheme of Eq. (3) conserves certain quantities, such as total element, motif, or enzyme concentrations, S does not have full rank and A is singular [17, 19, 20]. In such cases, it is possible to transform A into a nonsingular matrix by replacing its linearly dependent rows with vectors in its left null space (see Ref. [18] of [20]). By doing so, one removes the redundancies from the original dynamics scheme. A more detailed mathematical analysis will be published elsewhere. Both here and below, A is understood to be the transformed nonsingular matrix.
Results and discussion
Metabolic control analysis
Eq. (3) is a general scheme for biochemical reaction networks. For metabolic reactions involving enzymes, the enzyme and the enzymesubstrate complexes are treated as additional "species." In this section, however, we study MCA, and assume that every reaction involves an enzyme which is not explicitly expressed as a species. Rather, we assume enzyme activity is absorbed into the rate constants for the forward and backward reactions. This is clearly not an accurate approximation for many enzymatic reaction mechanisms. Nevertheless, it provides a firstorder approximation for treating a metabolic network. More complex rate laws for enzymatic reactions have been discussed for biochemical systems analysis [21, 22].
MCA focuses on how the NESS {${x}_{i}^{\ast}$} shifts in response to a perturbation to the amount of enzyme for a reaction or a perturbation to its substrate (∈ $\mathcal{I}$) concentration. Without losing generality, we assume these perturbations are made to the enzyme for the M th reaction or the N th (external) species.
Elasticity coefficients
which is called the scaled, local elasticitycoefficient [1]. These coefficients are elements of the scaled, local, elasticitycoefficient matrix, ϵ = (dg J)^{1} R^{ T }. Here, we use the same notation used by Heinrich and Schuster [23], where (dg v) denotes the diagonal matrix containing the components of the vector v along its diagonal. The unscaled, local, elasticitycoefficient matrix is given by ϵ '= (dg J) ϵ (dg x)^{1} = R^{ T }(dg x)^{1}. The prime symbol is used to distinguish unscaled coefficients from scaled coefficients, both here and in what is to follow.
which may also be known as a response coefficient [23, 25]. These coefficients are elements of the scaled, steadystate, elasticitycoefficient matrix, ε= (dg J)^{1} R^{ T }B (dg B)^{1}. Here, (dg B) denotes the diagonal matrix containing only the diagonal components of the matrix B along its diagonal. The unscaled, steadystate, elasticitycoefficient matrix is given by ε ' = (dg J) ε(dg x)^{1} = R^{ T }B (dg B)^{1} (dg x)^{1}.
As we shall show, some connectivity theorems for the two quantities ϵ and ε are different. In principle, the ε can be experimentally measured as a system response, but obtaining ϵ can be more difficult since it is a transient response that must be measured individually.
Control coefficients
Next, we consider the case where the enzyme for the M th reaction E^{ M }is changed: E^{ M }→ E^{ M }+ δ E^{ M }.
which is an element of the scaled, concentration, controlcoefficient matrix given by $\widehat{C}$ = BS (dg J). The unscaled, concentration, controlcoefficient matrix is ${\widehat{C}}^{\prime}$ = (dg x) $\widehat{C}$ (dg J)^{1} =  (dg x) BS.
where δ_{ mM }is the Kronecker delta function. These coefficients are elements of the scaled, flux, controlcoefficient matrix given by C = I  (dg J)^{1} R^{ T }BS (dg J). The unscaled, flux, controlcoefficient matrix is C '= (dg J) C (dg J)^{1} = I  R^{ T }BS.
Summation and connectivity theorems
between the unscaled coefficients.
C1_{M × 1}= 1_{M × 1},
where 1_{i×j}and 0_{i×j}denote the i × j matricies of ones and zeros, respectively. Eqs. (17) and (18) are known as the summation theorems for the scaled controlcoefficients. For the unscaled controlcoefficients, we have the generalized summation theorems, C ' K = K and ${\widehat{C}}^{\prime}K={0}_{N\times (MN)}$, where K is the M × (M  N) loop (or nullspace) matrix, i.e., its columns form a basis of the nullspace of S so that SK = 0_{N×(M  N)}[15, 16].
Euler's theorem on homogeneous functions can be used to understand the significance of the injection fluxes [17, 26]. If there are no injection fluxes and a NESS is sustained by clamped concentrations, the steadystate fluxes are homogeneous functions of the enzyme concentrations with order 1. That is to say that, assuming every reaction in the system is catalyzed by an enzyme, if every enzyme concentration is simultaneously doubled, the flux in each reaction doubles. This leads to the summation theorem for the flux controlcoefficients. On the other hand, if there are no clamped concentrations and a NESS is sustained by injection fluxes, the steadystate fluxes are homogeneous functions of enzyme concentrations with order 0. A similar argument exists for steadystate concentrations as a function of enzyme concentrations, leading to the summation theorem for the concentration controlcoefficients.
C ϵ = 0_{M×N}, C ε = 0_{M×N},
and the generalized connectivity theorems for the unscaled coefficients [23]:
C ' ϵ ' = 0_{M×N}, C ' ε ' = 0_{M×N}.
Finally, by combining the generalized summation and connectivity theorems, we get
which is the central equation in MCA [23]. The matrix (K ϵ') has been proved to be invertible [23, 27].
Therefore, if the local elasticitycoefficients are known, the controlcoefficients can be calculated.
The matrix (K ε') is also invertible (see Methods). Therefore, if the steadystate elasticitycoefficients are known, the controlcoefficients can be calculated. This is an important result because ε can be experimentally measured as a system response, but obtaining ϵ can be more difficult since it is a transient response and must be measured individually.
Biochemical potential and its control analysis
The most notable difference between BCT and other theories of biochemical networks is its sound thermodynamics basis [15, 16]. BCT articulates the fluxes J and chemical potential differences Δμ as two, complementary, key characteristics of a reaction in a NESS. Kirchhoff's flux and potential laws are manifestations of the fundamental laws of physical chemistry, namely conservation of mass and conservation of energy [15, 16].
In the linear regime with small flux and chemical potential difference, J and Δμ are linearly related with the biochemical conductance being φ_{+}/k_{ B }T (= φ_{}/k_{ B }T) [11, 16]. In the nonlinear regime, if a perturbation on a reaction is from its upstream, we can assume the φ_{} is relatively unperturbed. Then we have δ J/δ Δμ = φ_{+}/k_{ B }T. Similarly, if the reaction is perturbed from its downstream, then δ J/δ Δμ = φ_{}/k_{ B }T.
Eqs. (19) and (29) in combination yield the summation [25] and connectivity theorems for the scaled coefficients, under consideration of the steadystate condition,
C^{Δμ}1_{M×1}= 0_{M×1},
C^{Δμ}ϵ = ϵ^{Δμ}, C^{Δμ}ε= ε^{Δμ}.
Eq. (31) can also be derived using the homogeneous function theory (discussed above with flux and concentration controlcoefficients). For the unscaled coefficients, we get the generalized summation and connectivity theorems by combining Eqs. (21) and (30) so that
(C^{Δμ})' K = 0_{M×(MN)},
(C^{Δμ})' ϵ '=  (ϵ^{Δμ})', (C^{Δμ})' ε '=  (ε^{Δμ})'.
Eq. (33) is a manifestation of Kirchhoff's loop law [15, 16].
By combining the generalized summation and connectivity theorems, we get
The matrix (K ε') has an inverse (see Methods). Therefore, if the steadystate elasticitycoefficients are known, the controlcoefficients can be calculated.
Correlation metric construction
Correlation metric construction (CMC) focuses on how the NESS {${x}_{i}^{\ast}$} fluctuates in response to a random stochastic perturbation to the concentration level of an external species x_{ N }∈ $\mathcal{I}$. We assume the perturbation is small. Hence, the linear analysis is appropriate.
for i, j = 1, 2, ..., N.
in which ${\tilde{\tilde{A}}}_{ij}={A}_{ij}/{x}_{j}^{\ast}{\delta}_{iN}{k}_{d}$. The discrete AR and continuous OU models give essentially the same result.
The matrix $R(t)={e}^{\tilde{A}t}$ is the fundamental solution to the linear kinetic equation (4). R_{ ij }(t) is the response curve, as a function of t, for the i th species to an impulse of the j th species at time 0. The relation between the correlation matrix and the fundamental solution is expected for a linear system. For directly connected species i and j, the ${{R}^{\prime}}_{ij}(0)\ne 0$, whereas if i and j are not directly connected, ${{R}^{\prime}}_{ij}(0)=0$. Analytic solutions for completely linear systems have been derived and analyzed [29].
Conclusion
Rate limiting step: largest flux controlcoefficient and smallest biochemical conductance
Both flux controlcoefficients and biochemical conductances can be used as indicators for ratelimiting steps in a biochemical network [30]. Traditionally the ratelimiting step is understood in terms of the highest "activation barrier" in the pathway. Here we use a simple example to demonstrate that these concepts are intimately related. Mathematically, the highest activation barrier is also related to the mean firstpassage time in stochastic dynamics [31, 32].
for j = 1, 2, ..., n. If there is a ratelimiting step, say for example that reaction j is nearly irreversible, then E_{ j }is maximal and that is where the highest energy barrier is located. We now show that it is also where the largest flux controlcoefficient and the smallest conductance are.
which is at its minimum when ${\varphi}_{+}^{\ell}$ (or ${\varphi}_{}^{\ell}$) reaches its minimum. For small flux, ${\varphi}_{+}^{\ell}$ (and ${\varphi}_{}^{\ell}$) reaches its minimum also at maximal E_{ j }where concentration x_{ℓ} is the lowest.
Note that with J given, the smallest conductance also corresponds to the largest Δμ. In general, the ratelimiting step is not necessarily where the k's are smallest. The most efficient situation for reaction system (44) is when all the conductances are equal. This result is analogous to the constant torque principle suggested for molecular motors [12, 13, 33].
Fluxcontrolled and concentrationcontrolled biochemical networks
The analysis provided in the present paper poses the following biological question. When is a NESS of a biochemical network controlled by a constant flux injection and when is it controlled by a clamped concentration (chemical potential)? Clearly in real biological systems, the appropriate answer is a combination of both. Just as a real battery, having both finite internal resistance and conductance, in an electrical circuit is a combination of constantcurrent (zero internal conductance) and constantvoltage (zero internal resistance) ideal batteries, so too would a real biological system be a combination of constant flux injections and clamped concentrations [17]. Nevertheless, a brief discussion on this topic provides insights into the control of biochemical networks.
We note that hdr increases with φ_{} for the constant potential difference (concentration clamping) case. These results are analogous to an electric circuit in which the heat dissipation equals I^{2} R and U^{2}/R, respectively.
This observation leads us to the following hypothesis. In a biochemical network for biosynthesis, the fluxes are essential for supply and demand. Hence, such networks will in general have large conductances in order to minimize the energy waste and be efficient. On the other hand, in a biochemical network for cellular signaling, the concentrations are the essential signal. Thus, in this case the conductances are generally small in order to minimize the energy waste.
Relation to the biochemical systems analysis
where K ≤ L due to substrate saturation or effector inhibition. The coefficients a_{ i }, b_{ i }, α_{0}, and β_{0} contain the concentrations of all the other substrates. BSA provides insight to the properties of a_{ i }and b_{ j }. The network of metabolic reactions is then modeled [22] by a system of enzymatic reactions with a rate law given in the form of (49).
which is essentially the integral form of the definition of local elasticitycoefficients.
In contrast, MCA assumes no specific rate laws for an enzymatic reaction except that the rate is linearly proportional to the enzyme concentration. This assumption is certainly valid for most biochemical reactions except when a substrate concentration is significantly less than that of an enzyme.
Methods
Solving the central, controlanalysis equations
Abbreviations
 BCT:

Biochemical Circuit Theory
 BSA:

Biochemical Systems Analysis
 CMC:

Correlation Metric Construction
 FBA:

Flux Balance Analysis
 MCA:

Metabolic Control Analysis
 NESS:

Nonequilibrium SteadyState
 A N ×N :

linear stability matrix
 B :

N ×N matrix = A^{1}
 K :

M × (M  N) loop (or nullspace) matrix (SK = 0)
 R :

N ×M correlation matrix defined such that A = SR^{ T }
 S :

N ×M stoichiometric matrix
 x :

Ndimensional vector of species' concentrations
 J :

Mdimensional vector of reaction fluxes
 Δ :

μ Mdimensional vector of reaction potentials
 ϵ M ×N local:

elasticitycoefficient matrix
 ω M ×N steadystate:

elasticitycoefficient matrix
 $\widehat{C}$ :

N × M concentration, controlcoefficient matrix
 C M ×M flux:

controlcoefficient matrix
 C^{Δμ}M ×M biochemical potential:

controlcoefficient matrix
 (dg v) If v is a vector:

(dg v) denotes the diagonal matrix with the components of v along its diagonal. If v is a matrix, (dg v) denotes the diagonal matrix with only the diagonal components of v along its diagonal. * Denotes steadystate
 ::

' Distinguishes unscaled coefficients from scaled coefficients
Declarations
Acknowledgements
We thank Professor J.B. Bassingthwaighte for continuous encouragement, and Adam Arkin, Kyung Kim, Shoudan Liang, and Brian Ingalls for helpful discussions. HQ and DAB are partially supported by NIH grant GM068610. WJH is supported by the Intramural Research Program, NIDDK, NIH.
Authors’ Affiliations
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