Towards better understanding of an industrial cell factory: investigating the feasibility of real-time metabolic flux analysis in Pichia pastoris

Mariana L. Fazenda, Joao M L Dias, Linda M. Harvey, Alison Nordon, Ruangelie Edrada-Ebel

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24 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Novel analytical tools, which shorten the long and costly development cycles of biopharmaceuticals are essential. Metabolic flux analysis (MFA) shows great promise in improving our understanding of the metabolism of cell factories in bioreactors, but currently only provides information post-process using conventional off-line methods. MFA combined with real time multianalyte process monitoring techniques provides a valuable platform technology allowing real time insights into metabolic responses of cell factories in bioreactors. This could have a major impact in the bioprocessing industry, ultimately improving product consistency, productivity and shortening development cycles.
Results: This is the first investigation using Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) in situ combined with metabolic flux modelling which is both a significant challenge and considerable extension of these techniques. We investigated the feasibility of our approach using the industrial workhorse Pichia pastoris in a simplified model system. A parental P. pastoris strain (i.e. which does not synthesize recombinant protein) was used to allow definition of distinct metabolic states focusing solely upon the prediction of intracellular fluxes in central carbon metabolism. Extracellular fluxes were determined using off-line conventional reference methods and on-line NIR predictions (calculated by multivariate analysis using the partial least squares algorithm, PLS). The results showed that the PLS-NIRS models for biomass and glycerol were accurate: correlation coefficients, R2, above 0.90 and the root mean square error of prediction, RMSEP, of 1.17 and 2.90 g/L, respectively. The analytical quality of the NIR models was demonstrated by direct comparison with the standard error of the laboratory (SEL), which showed that performance of the NIR models was suitable for quantifying biomass and glycerol for calculating extracellular metabolite rates and used as independent inputs for the MFA (RMSEP lower than 1.5 × SEL). Furthermore, the results for the MFA from both datasets passed consistency tests performed for each steady state, showing that the precision of on-line NIRS is equivalent to that obtained by the off-line measurements.
Conclusions: The findings of this study show for the first time the potential of NIRS as an input generating for MFA models, contributing to the optimization of cell factory metabolism in real-time.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-59
Number of pages9
JournalMicrobial Cell Factories
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 May 2013


  • realtime flux modelling
  • pichia
  • industrial cell factory
  • real-time metabolic flux analysis
  • pichia pastoris


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