Cellular metabolism consists of a complex network of chemical reactions, which provide the cell with a reliable supply of energy and building blocks. Each cell manages its own metabolic activity based on its genetic repertoire and on environmental conditions, most notably the presence of nutrients and neighboring cells. Understanding how metabolism works and how it evolves is important for a number of reasons:
(i) Metabolism is as ancient as life itself, and its current architecture may hold the key for understanding how living systems emerged ~3.8 billion years ago
(ii) Microbes and microbial communities, through their interactions and metabolic activity, influence global biogeochemical cycles.
(iii) Engineered microbes and microbial communities can be used as molecular factories, to produce useful metabolites, such as biofuels and drugs
(iv) Metabolism plays a key role in human health, both in genetic diseases and cancer, and in driving the dynamics and evolution of pathogens, and of the human microbiome.