A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation of Delayed Growth Response in the Continuous Culture of Bacteria



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When the growth of bacteria in a chemostat is controlled by limiting the supply of a single essential nutrient, the growth rate is affected both by the concentration of this nutrient in the culture medium and by the amount of time that it takes for the chemical and physiological processes that result in the production of new biomass. Thus, although the uptake of nutrient by cells is an essentially instantaneous process, the addition of new biomass is delayed by the amount of time that it takes to metabolize the nutrient. Mathematical models that incorporate this “delayed growth response” (DGR) phenomenon have been developed and analysed. However, because they are formulated in terms of parameters that are difficult to measure directly, these models are of limited value to experimentalists. In this paper, we introduce a DGR model that is formulated in terms of measurable parameters. In addition, we provide for this model a complete set of criteria for determining persistence versus extinction of the bacterial culture in the chemostat. Specifically, we show that DGR plays a role in determining persistence versus extinction only under certain ranges of chemostat operating parameters. It is also shown, however, that DGR plays a role in determining the steady-state nutrient and bacteria concentrations in all instances of persistence. The steady state and transient behavior of solutions of our model is found to be in agreement with data that we obtained in growing Escherichia coli 23716 in a chemostat with glucose as a limiting nutrient. One of the theoretical predictions of our model that does not occur in other DGR models is that under certain conditions a large delay in growth response might actually have a positive effect on the bacteria's ability to persist.

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Journal of Theoretical Biology

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