Microbial strains optimization for the overproduction of desired phenotype has been a popular topic in recent years. The strains can be optimized through several techniques in the field of genetic engineering. Gene knockout is a genetic engineering technique that can engineer the metabolism of microbial cells with the objective to obtain desirable phenotypes. However, the complexities of the metabolic networks have made the process to identify the effects of genetic modification on the desirable phenotypes challenging. Furthermore, a vast number of reactions in cellular metabolism often lead to the combinatorial problem in obtaining optimal gene deletion strategy. Basically, the size of a genome-scale metabolic model is usually large. As the size of the problem increases, the computation time increases exponentially. In this paper, we propose Differential Bees Flux Balance Analysis (DBFBA) with OptKnock to identify optimal gene knockout strategies for maximizing the production yield of desired phenotypes while sustaining the growth rate. This proposed method functions by improving the performance of a hybrid of Bees Algorithm and Flux Balance Analysis (BAFBA) by hybridizing Differential Evolution (DE) algorithm into neighborhood searching strategy of BAFBA. In addition, DBFBA is integrated with OptKnock to validate the results for improving the reliability the work. Through several experiments conducted on Escherichia coli, Bacillus subtilis, and Clostridium thermocellum as the model organisms, DBFBA has shown a better performance in terms of computational time, stability, growth rate, and production yield of desired phenotypes compared to the methods used in previous works.
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