Metabolic anchor reactions for robust biorefining.
Microbial cell factories based on renewable carbon sources are fundamental to a sustainable bio-economy. The economic feasibility of producer cells requires robust performance balancing growth and production. However, the inherent competition between these two objectives often leads to instability and reduces productivity. While algorithms exist to design metabolic network reduction strategies for aligning these objectives, the biochemical basis of the growth-product coupling has remained unresolved. Here, we reveal key reactions in the cellular biochemical repertoire as universal anchor reactions for aligning cell growth and production. A necessary condition for a reaction to be an anchor is that it splits a substrate into two or more molecules. By searching the currently known biochemical reaction space, we identify 62 C-C cleaving anchor reactions, such as isocitrate lyase (EC 188.8.131.52) and L-tryptophan indole-lyase (EC 184.108.40.206), which are relevant for biorefining. The here identified anchor reactions mark network nodes for basing growth-coupled metabolic engineering and novel pathway designs.