Modeling the Metabolic State of Mycobacterium tuberculosis Upon Infection

Rienk A. Rienksma, Peter J. Schaap, Vitor A.P. Martins Dos Santos, Maria Suarez-Diez*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Genome-scale metabolic models of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), the causative agent of tuberculosis, have been envisioned as a platform for drug discovery. By systematically probing the networks that underpin such models, the reactions that are essential for Mtb are identified. A majority of these reactions are catalyzed by enzymes and thus represent candidate drug targets to fight an Mtb infection. Nevertheless, this is complicated by the limited knowledge on the environment that Mtb encounters during infection. Modeling the behavior of the bacteria during infection requires knowledge of the so-called biomass reaction that represents bacterial biomass composition. This
composition varies in different environments or bacterial growth phases. Accurate modeling of the metabolic state requires a precise biomass reaction for the described condition. In recent years, additional insights in the in-host environment occupied by Mtb have been gained as transcript abundance data of interacting host and pathogen have become available. Therefore, we used transcript abundance data and developed a straightforward and systematic method to obtain a condition-specific biomass reaction for Mtb during in vitro growth and during infection of its host. The method described herein is virtually free of any pre-set assumptions on uptake rates of nutrients, making it suitable for exploring environments with limited accessibility. The condition-specific
biomass reaction represents the “metabolic objective” of Mtb in a given environment (in-host growth and growth on defined medium) at a specific time point, and as such allows modeling the bacterial metabolic state in these environments. Five different biomass reactions were used to predict nutrient uptake rates and gene essentiality. Predictions were subsequently compared to available experimental data. Our results show that nutrient uptake can accurately be predicted. Gene essentiality can also be predicted but accurate predictions remain difficult to obtain. In conclusion, a viable strategy to model Mtb metabolism in hard-to-access environments that is virtually free of pre-set assumptions is provided.
Original languageEnglish
Article number264
JournalFrontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2018


  • Condition specific
  • Flux balance analysis
  • Host-pathogen interaction
  • Metabolic model
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • Systems biology


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