Dissecting metabolic flux in C4 plants: experimental and theoretical approaches

Mohammad Mazharul Islam, Adil Al-Siyabi, Rajib Saha, Toshihiro Obata

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


C4 photosynthesis is the carbon fixation pathway in specific plant species, so called C4 plants including maize, sorghum and sugarcane. It is characterized by the carboxylation reaction that forms four-carbon (C4) molecules, which are then used to transport CO2 to the proximity of RubisCO in the bundle sheath cells. Since C4 photosynthesis confers high photosynthetic as well as water and nitrogen use efficiency on plants, worldwide efforts have been made to understand the mechanisms of C4 photosynthesis and to properly introduce the pathway into C3 crops. Metabolic flux analysis (MFA) is a research field trying to analyze the metabolic pathway structure and activity (i.e., flux) in vivo. Constraint-based reconstruction and analysis tools theoretically study the distribution of metabolic flux in genome-scale network-based models. Different types of MFA and model-based analyses have been contributing to the discovery of C4 photosynthetic pathways and to analyze its operation in C4 plant species. This article reviews the studies to dissect the operation of C4 photosynthesis and adjacent pathways, from the pioneer studies using radioisotope-based MFA to the recent stable isotope-based MFA and the model-based approaches. These studies indicate complex interconnections among metabolic pathways and the importance of the integration of experimental and theoretical approaches. Perspectives on the integrative approach and major obstacles are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1253-1274
Number of pages22
JournalPhytochemistry Reviews
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018


  • C photosynthesis
  • Constraint-based reconstruction and analysis
  • Genome scale metabolic model
  • Isotope labeling
  • Metabolic flux analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Plant Science


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