The intracellular metabolic fluxes through the central carbon pathways in Bacillus licheniformis in serine alkaline protease (SAP) production were calculated to predict the potential strategies for increasing the performance of the bacilli, by using two optimization approaches, i.e. the theoretical data-based (TDA) and the theoretical data-based capacity (TDC) analyses based on respectively minimum in-vivo SAP accumulation rate and maximum SAP synthesis rate assumptions, at low-, medium, and high-oxygen transfer conditions. At all periods of low-oxygen transfer condition, in lag and early exponential periods of medium-oxygen transfer (MOT) condition, and SAP synthesis period of high-oxygen transfer (HOT) condition, the TDA and TDC analyses revealed that SAP overproduction capacity is almost equal to the observed SAP production due to the regulation effect of the oxygen transfer. In the growth and early SAP synthesis period and in SAP synthesis period at MOT condition the calculated results of the two analyses reveal that SAP synthesis rate of the microorganism can be increased 7.2 and 16.7 folds, respectively; whereas, in the growth and early SAP synthesis period at HOT condition it can be increased 12.6 folds. The diversions in the biochemical reaction network and the influence of the oxygen transfer on the performance of the bacilli were also presented. The results encourage the application of metabolic engineering for lifting the rate limitations and for improving the genetic regulations in order to increase the SAP production. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.