An ensemble of mathematical models showing diauxic growth behaviour

Andreas Kremling, Johannes Geiselmann, Delphine Ropers, Hidde de Jong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background: Carbon catabolite repression (CCR) controls the order in which different carbon sources are metabolised. Although this system is one of the paradigms of regulation in bacteria, the underlying mechanisms remain controversial. CCR involves the coordination of different subsystems of the cell - responsible for the uptake of carbon sources, their breakdown for the production of energy and precursors, and the conversion of the latter to biomass. The complexity of this integrated system, with regulatory mechanisms cutting across metabolism, gene expression, and signalling, has motivated important modelling efforts over the past four decades, especially in the enterobacterium Escherichia coli. Results: Starting from a simple core model with only four intracellular metabolites, we develop an ensemble of model variants, all showing diauxic growth behaviour during a batch process. The model variants fall into one of the four categories: flux balance models, kinetic models with growth dilution, kinetic models with regulation, and resource allocation models. The model variants differ from one another in only a single aspect, each breaking the symmetry between the two substrate assimilation pathways in a different manner, and can be quantitatively compared using a so-called diauxic growth index. For each of the model variants, we predict the behaviour in two new experimental conditions, namely a glucose pulse for a culture growing in minimal medium with lactose and a batch culture with different initial concentrations of the components of the transport systems. When qualitatively comparing these predictions with experimental data for these two conditions, a number of models can be excluded while other model variants are still not discriminable. The best-performing model variants are based on inducer inclusion and activation of enzymatic genes by a global transcription factor, but the other proposed factors may complement these well-known regulatory mechanisms. Conclusions: The model ensemble presented here offers a better understanding of the variety of mechanisms that have been proposed to play a role in CCR. In addition, it provides an educational resource for systems biology, as it gives an introduction to a broad range of modeling approaches in the context of a simple but biologically relevant example.

Original languageEnglish
Article number82
JournalBMC Systems Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 21 Sep 2018


  • Carbon catabolite repression
  • Dynamical modeling
  • Escherichia coli
  • Flux balance models
  • Kinetic models
  • Resource allocation models


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