Optimization of 13C isotopic tracers for metabolic flux analysis in mammalian cells
Mammalian cells consume and metabolize various substrates from their surroundings for energy generation and biomass synthesis. Glucose and glutamine, in particular, are the primary carbon sources for proliferating cancer cells. While this combination of substrates generates static labeling patterns for use in 13C metabolic flux analysis (MFA), the inability of single tracers to effectively label all pathways poses an obstacle for comprehensive flux determination within a given experiment. To address this issue we applied a genetic algorithm to optimize mixtures of 13C-labeled glucose and glutamine for use in MFA. We identified tracer combinations that minimized confidence intervals in an experimentally determined flux network describing central carbon metabolism in tumor cells. Additional simulations were used to determine the robustness of the [1,2-13C2]glucose/[U-13C5]glutamine tracer combination with respect to perturbations in the network. Finally, we experimentally validated the improved performance of this tracer set relative to glucose tracers alone in a cancer cell line. This versatile method allows researchers to determine the optimal tracer combination to use for a specific metabolic network, and our findings applied to cancer cells significantly enhance the ability of MFA experiments to precisely quantify fluxes in higher organisms.
► The performance of 13C tracers in MFA was scored based on confidence intervals. ► Combinations of tracer substrates were optimized using a genetic algorithm. ► Combining [13C]glucose and [13C]glutamine can minimize confidence intervals. ► Improved MFA performance was validated in a cellular model of lung cancer.
Journal: Metabolic Engineering - Volume 14, Issue 2, March 2012, Pages 162–171