Kinetic profiling of metabolic specialists demonstrates stability and consistency of in vivo enzyme turnover numbers

Enzyme turnover numbers (kcats) are essential for a quantitative understanding of cells. Because kcats are traditionally measured in low-throughput assays, they are often noisy, non-physiological, inconsistent, and labor-intensive to obtain. We use a data-driven approach to estimate in vivo kcats using metabolic specialist E. coli strains that resulted from gene knockouts in central metabolism followed by metabolic optimization via laboratory evolution. By combining absolute proteomics with fluxomics data, we find that in vivo kcats are robust against genetic perturbations, suggesting that metabolic adaptation to gene loss is mostly achieved through other mechanisms, like gene-regulatory changes. Combining machine learning and genome-scale metabolic models, we show that the obtained in vivo kcats predict unseen proteomics data with much higher precision than in vitro kcats. The results demonstrate that in vivo kcats can solve the problem of noisy and inconsistent parameterizations of cellular models.

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