Thermodynamic analysis of biodegradation pathways

Stacey D. Finley, Linda J. Broadbelt, Vassily Hatzimanikatis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Microorganisms provide a wealth of biodegradative potential in the reduction and elimination of xenobiotic compounds in the environment. One useful metric to evaluate potential biodegradation pathways is thermodynamic feasibility. However, experimental data for the thermodynamic properties of xenobiotics is scarce. The present work uses a group contribution method to study the thermodynamic properties of the University of Minnesota Biocatalysis/Biodegradation Database. The Gibbs free energies of formation and reaction are estimated for 914 compounds (81%) and 902 reactions (75%), respectively, in the database. The reactions are classified based on the minimum and maximum Gibbs free energy values, which accounts for uncertainty in the free energy estimates and a feasible concentration range relevant to biodegradation. Using the free energy estimates, the cumulative free energy change of 89 biodegradation pathways (51%) in the database could be estimated. A comparison of the likelihood of the biotransformation rules in the Pathway Prediction System and their thermodynamic feasibility was then carried out. This analysis revealed that when evaluating the feasibility of biodegradation pathways, it is important to consider the thermodynamic topology of the reactions in the context of the complete pathway. Group contribution is shown to be a viable tool for estimating, a priori, the thermodynamic feasibility and the relative likelihood of alternative biodegradation reactions. This work offers a useful tool to a broad range of researchers interested in estimating the feasibility of the reactions in existing or novel biodegradation pathways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)532-541
Number of pages10
JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 15 2009


  • Complex systems
  • Metabolic engineering
  • Network analysis
  • Synthetic biology
  • Systems biology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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