Reconstruction and flux-balance analysis of the Plasmodium falciparum metabolic network

Germán Plata, Tzu Lin Hsiao, Kellen L. Olszewski, Manuel Llinás, Dennis Vitkup

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112 Scopus citations


Genome-scale metabolic reconstructions can serve as important tools for hypothesis generation and high-throughput data integration. Here, we present a metabolic network reconstruction and flux-balance analysis (FBA) of Plasmodium falciparum, the primary agent of malaria. The compartmentalized metabolic network accounts for 1001 reactions and 616 metabolites. Enzyme-gene associations were established for 366 genes and 75% of all enzymatic reactions. Compared with other microbes, the P. falciparum metabolic network contains a relatively high number of essential genes, suggesting little redundancy of the parasite metabolism. The model was able to reproduce phenotypes of experimental gene knockout and drug inhibition assays with up to 90% accuracy. Moreover, using constraints based on gene-expression data, the model was able to predict the direction of concentration changes for external metabolites with 70% accuracy. Using FBA of the reconstructed network, we identified 40 enzymatic drug targets (i.e. in silico essential genes), with no or very low sequence identity to human proteins. To demonstrate that the model can be used to make clinically relevant predictions, we experimentally tested one of the identified drug targets, nicotinate mononucleotide adenylyltransferase, using a recently discovered small-molecule inhibitor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number408
JournalMolecular Systems Biology
StatePublished - 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Applied Mathematics


  • flux-balance analysis
  • Plasmodium falciparum metabolism
  • systems biology


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