Quantifying the effects of the division of labor in metabolic pathways
Heys, Jeffrey J.
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Division of labor is commonly observed in nature. There are several theories that suggest diversiﬁcation in a microbial community may enhance stability and robustness, decrease concentration of inhibitory intermediates, and increase efﬁciency. Theoretical studies to date have focused on proving when the stable co-existence of multiple strains occurs, but have not investigated the productivity or biomass production of these systems when compared to a single ‘super microbe’ which has the same metabolic capacity. In this work we prove that if there is no change in the growth kinetics or yield of the metabolic pathways when the metabolism is specialised into two separate microbes, the biomass (and productivity) of a binary consortia system is always less than that of the equivalent monoculture. Using a speciﬁc example of Escherichia coli growing on a glucose substrate, we ﬁnd that increasing the growth rates or substrate aﬃnities of the pathways is not suﬃcient to explain the experimentally observed productivity increase in a community. An increase in pathway eﬃciency (yield) in specialised organisms provides the best explanation of the observed increase in productivity.
Harvey, Emily, Jeffrey Heys, and Tomáš Gedeon. "Quantifying the effects of the division of labor in metabolic pathways." Journal of theoretical biology 360 (2014):222-242. 10.1016/j.jtbi.2014.07.011