Genome-scale metabolic models describe cellular metabolism with mechanistic detail. Given their high complexity, such models need to be parameterized correctly to yield accurate predictions and avoid overfitting. Effective parameterization has been well-studied for microbial models, but it remains unclear for higher eukaryotes, including mammalian cells. To address this, we enumerated model parameters that describe key features of cultured mammalian cells – including cellular composition, bioprocess performance metrics, mammalian-specific pathways, and biological assumptions behind model formulation approaches. We tested these parameters by building thousands of metabolic models and evaluating their ability to predict the growth rates of a panel of phenotypically diverse Chinese Hamster Ovary cell clones. We found the following considerations to be most critical for accurate parameterization: (1) cells limit metabolic activity to maintain homeostasis, (2) cell morphology and viability change dynamically during a growth curve, and (3) cellular biomass has a particular macromolecular composition. Depending on parameterization, models predicted different metabolic phenotypes, including contrasting mechanisms of nutrient utilization and energy generation, leading to varying accuracies of growth rate predictions. Notably, accurate parameter values broadly agreed with experimental measurements. These insights will guide future investigations of mammalian metabolism. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.
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