BayFlux: A Bayesian method to quantify metabolic Fluxes and their uncertainty at the genome scale

Tyler W.H. Backman, Christina Schenk, Tijana Radivojevic, David Ando, Jahnavi Singh, Jeffrey J. Czajka, Zak Costello, Jay D. Keasling, Yinjie Tang, Elena Akhmatskaya, Hector Garcia Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Metabolic fluxes, the number of metabolites traversing each biochemical reaction in a cell per unit time, are crucial for assessing and understanding cell function. 13C Metabolic Flux Analysis (13C MFA) is considered to be the gold standard for measuring metabolic fluxes. 13C MFA typically works by leveraging extracellular exchange fluxes as well as data from 13C labeling experiments to calculate the flux profile which best fit the data for a small, central carbon, metabolic model. However, the nonlinear nature of the 13C MFA fitting procedure means that several flux profiles fit the experimental data within the experimental error, and traditional optimization methods offer only a partial or skewed picture, especially in “non-gaussian” situations where multiple very distinct flux regions fit the data equally well. Here, we present a method for flux space sampling through Bayesian inference (BayFlux), that identifies the full distribution of fluxes compatible with experimental data for a comprehensive genome-scale model. This Bayesian approach allows us to accurately quantify uncertainty in calculated fluxes. We also find that, surprisingly, the genome-scale model of metabolism produces narrower flux distributions (reduced uncertainty) than the small core metabolic models traditionally used in 13C MFA. The different results for some reactions when using genome-scale models vs core metabolic models advise caution in assuming strong inferences from 13C MFA since the results may depend significantly on the completeness of the model used. Based on BayFlux, we developed and evaluated novel methods (P-13C MOMA and P-13C ROOM) to predict the biological results of a gene knockout, that improve on the traditional MOMA and ROOM methods by quantifying prediction uncertainty.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1011111
JournalPLoS computational biology
Issue number11 November
StatePublished - Nov 2023


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