Optimal Metabolic Pathway Activation

Diego Oyarzún, Brian Ingalls, Richard Middleton, Dimitrios Kalamatianos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper deals with temporal enzyme distribution in the activation of biochemical pathways. Pathway activation arises when production of a certain biomolecule is required due to changing environmental conditions. Under the premise that biological systems have been optimized through evolutionary processes, a biologically meaningful optimal control problem is posed. In this setup, the enzyme concentrations are assumed to be time dependent and constrained by a limited overall enzyme production capacity, while the optimization criterion accounts for both time and resource usage. Using geometric arguments we establish the bangbang nature of the solution and reveal that each reaction must be sequentially activated in the same order as they appear in the pathway. The results hold for a broad range of enzyme dynamics which includes, but is not limited to, Mass Action, Michaelis-Menten and Hill Equation kinetics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12587 - 12592
Number of pages6
JournalIFAC Proceedings Volumes (IFAC-PapersOnline)
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • Biological systems, biochemical reactions, reaction kinetics, metabolic network, optimal control


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