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Teaching the design principles of metabolism

Learning metabolism inevitably involves memorizing pathways. The teacher's challenge is to motivate memorization and to help students progress beyond it. To this end, students should be taught a few fundamental chemical reaction mechanisms and how these are repeatedly used to achieve pathway goals. Pathway knowledge should then be reinforced through quantitative problems that emphasize the relevance of metabolism to bioengineering and medicine.

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Figure 1: Reactivity of bonds β to carbonyl.
Figure 2: Example networks for teaching flux balance analysis.
Figure 3: The cancer-associated pyruvate kinase isozyme (PKM2) offers a modern case study for teaching metabolic regulation by isozyme switching, allostery and covalent modification.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Shawn Campagna for help in designing this curriculum, David Botstein for his tireless support of innovative teaching, Bernhard Palsson for guidance teaching flux balance analysis, and NSF CAREER Award MCB-0643859 to J.D.R. for supporting the curriculum development.

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Correspondence to Joshua D Rabinowitz.

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Rabinowitz, J., Vastag, L. Teaching the design principles of metabolism. Nat Chem Biol 8, 497–501 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/nchembio.969

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