Uncovering the Role of Metabolism in Oomycete–Host Interactions Using Genome-Scale Metabolic Models

Rodenburg, Sander Y.A.; Seidl, Michael F.; Ridder, Dick de; Govers, Francine


Metabolism is the set of biochemical reactions of an organism that enables it to assimilate nutrients from its environment and to generate building blocks for growth and proliferation. It forms a complex network that is intertwined with the many molecular and cellular processes that take place within cells. Systems biology aims to capture the complexity of cells, organisms, or communities by reconstructing models based on information gathered by high-throughput analyses (omics data) and prior knowledge. One type of model is a genome-scale metabolic model (GEM) that allows studying the distributions of metabolic fluxes, i.e., the “mass-flow” through the network of biochemical reactions. GEMs are nowadays widely applied and have been reconstructed for various microbial pathogens, either in a free-living state or in interaction with their hosts, with the aim to gain insight into mechanisms of pathogenicity. In this review, we first introduce the principles of systems biology and GEMs. We then describe how metabolic modeling can contribute to unraveling microbial pathogenesis and host–pathogen interactions, with a specific focus on oomycete plant pathogens and in particular Phytophthora infestans. Subsequently, we review achievements obtained so far and identify and discuss potential pitfalls of current models. Finally, we propose a workflow for reconstructing high-quality GEMs and elaborate on the resources needed to advance a system biology approach aimed at untangling the intimate interactions between plants and pathogens.