Curating a comprehensive set of enzymatic reaction rules for efficient novel biosynthetic pathway design

Zhuofu Ni, Andrew E. Stine, Keith E.J. Tyo, Linda J. Broadbelt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Enzyme substrate promiscuity has significant implications for metabolic engineering. The ability to predict the space of possible enzymatic side reactions is crucial for elucidating underground metabolic networks in microorganisms, as well as harnessing novel biosynthetic capabilities of enzymes to produce desired chemicals. Reaction rule-based cheminformatics platforms have been implemented to computationally enumerate possible promiscuous reactions, relying on existing knowledge of enzymatic transformations to inform novel reactions. However, past versions of curated reaction rules have been limited by a lack of comprehensiveness in representing all possible transformations, as well as the need to prune rules to enhance computational efficiency in pathway expansion. To this end, we curated a set of 1224 most generalized reaction rules, automatically abstracted from atom-mapped MetaCyc reactions and verified to uniquely cover all common enzymatic transformations. We developed a framework to systematically identify and correct redundancies and errors in the curation process, resulting in a minimal, yet comprehensive, rule set. These reaction rules were capable of reproducing more than 85% of all reactions in the KEGG and BRENDA databases, for which a large fraction of reactions is not present in MetaCyc. Our rules exceed all previously published rule sets for which reproduction was possible in this coverage analysis, which allows for the exploration of a larger space of known enzymatic transformations. By leveraging the entire knowledge of possible metabolic reactions through generalized enzymatic reaction rules, we are able to better utilize underground metabolic pathways and accelerate novel biosynthetic pathway design to enable bioproduction towards a wider range of new molecules.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-87
Number of pages9
JournalMetabolic Engineering
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Cheminformatics
  • Enzyme promiscuity
  • Novel pathway design
  • Reaction network generation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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