A Review of Parameters and Heuristics for Guiding Metabolic Pathfinding

S. M. Kim, M. I. Peña, M. Moll, G. N. Bennett, and L. E. Kavraki, “A Review of Parameters and Heuristics for Guiding Metabolic Pathfinding,” Journal of Cheminformatics, vol. 9, no. 1, Sep. 2017.


Recent developments in metabolic engineering have led to the successful biosynthesis of valuable products, such as the precursor of the antimalarial compound, artemisinin, and opioid precursor, thebaine. Synthesizing these traditionally plant-derived compounds in genetically modified yeast cells introduces the possibility of significantly reducing the total time and resources required for their production, and in turn, allows these valuable compounds to become cheaper and more readily available. Most biosynthesis pathways used in metabolic engineering applications have been discovered manually, requiring a tedious search of existing literature and metabolic databases. However, the recent rapid development of available metabolic information has enabled the development of automated approaches for identifying novel pathways. Computer-assisted pathfinding has the potential to save biochemists time in the initial discovery steps of metabolic engineering. In this paper, we review the parameters and heuristics used to guide the search in recent pathfinding algorithms. These parameters and heuristics capture information on the metabolic network structure, compound structures, reaction features, and organism-specificity of pathways. No one metabolic pathfinding algorithm or search parameter stands out as the best to use broadly for solving the pathfinding problem, as each method and parameter has its own strengths and shortcomings. As assisted pathfinding approaches continue to become more sophisticated, the development of better methods for visualizing pathway results and integrating these results into existing metabolic engineering practices is also important for encouraging wider use of these pathfinding methods.

Publisher: http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13321-017-0239-6

PDF preprint: http://kavrakilab.org/publications/kim2017_pathfinding_review.pdf