A novel method dissecting the regulation of a cellular function into direct metabolic regulation and hierarchical (e.g., gene-expression) regulation is applied to yeast starved for nitrogen or carbon. Upon nitrogen starvation glucose influx is down-regulated hierarchically. Upon carbon starvation it is down-regulated both metabolically and hierarchically. The method is expounded in terms of its implications for diverse types of regulation. It is also fine-tuned for cases where isoenzymes catalyze the flux through a single metabolic step. © 2004 Federation of European Microbiological Societies. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.