Predictive sulfur metabolism – a field in flux

The key role of sulfur metabolites in response to biotic and abiotic stress in plants, as well as their importance in diet and health has led to a significant interest and effort in trying to understand and manipulate the production of relevant compounds. Metabolic engineering utilizes a set of theoretical tools to help rationally design modifications that enhance the production of a desired metabolite. Such approaches have proven their value in bacterial systems, however, the paucity of success stories to date in plants, suggests that challenges remain. Here, we review the most commonly used methods for understanding metabolic flux, focusing on the sulfur assimilatory pathway. We highlight known issues with both experimental and theoretical approaches, as well as presenting recent methods for integrating different modeling strategies, and progress toward an understanding of flux at the whole plant level.