Minimizing the number of optimizations for efficient community dynamic flux balance analysis

James D. Brunner, Nicholas Chia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Dynamic flux balance analysis uses a quasi-steady state assumption to calculate an organism's metabolic activity at each time-step of a dynamic simulation, using the well-known technique of flux balance analysis. For microbial communities, this calculation is especially costly and involves solving a linear constrained optimization problem for each member of the community at each time step. However, this is unnecessary and inefficient, as prior solutions can be used to inform future time steps. Here, we show that a basis for the space of internal fluxes can be chosen for each microbe in a community and this basis can be used to simulate forward by solving a relatively inexpensive system of linear equations at most time steps. We can use this solution as long as the resulting metabolic activity remains within the optimization problem's constraints (i.e. the solution to the linear system of equations remains a feasible to the linear program). As the solution becomes infeasible, it first becomes a feasible but degenerate solution to the optimization problem, and we can solve a different but related optimization problem to choose an appropriate basis to continue forward simulation. We demonstrate the efficiency and robustness of our method by comparing with currently used methods on a four species community, and show that our method requires at least 91% fewer optimizations to be solved. For reproducibility, we prototyped the method using Python. Source code is available at

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1007786
JournalPLoS computational biology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Ecology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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