Genome-wide characterization of Phytophthora infestans metabolism: a systems biology approach
Genome-scale metabolic models (GEMs) provide a functional view of the complex network of biochemical reactions in the living cell. Initially mainly applied to reconstruct the metabolism of model organisms, the availability of increasingly sophisticated reconstruction methods and more extensive biochemical databases now make it possible to reconstruct GEMs for less characterized organisms as well, and have the potential to unravel the metabolism in pathogen-host systems. Here we present a GEM for the oomycete plant pathogen Phytophthora infestans as a first step towards an integrative model with its host. We predict the biochemical reactions in different cellular compartments and investigate the gene-protein-reaction associations in this model to get an impression of the biochemical capabilities of P. infestans. Furthermore, we generate life stage-specific models to place the transcriptomic changes of genes encoding metabolic enzymes into a functional context. In sporangia and zoospores there is an overall downregulation, most strikingly reflected in the fatty acid biosynthesis pathway. To investigate the robustness of the GEM, we simulate gene deletions to predict which enzymes are essential for in vitro growth. While there is room for improvement, this first model is an essential step towards an understanding of P. infestans and its interactions with plants as a system, which will help to formulate new hypotheses on infection mechanisms and disease prevention.
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