Bacterial Growth Rate Over Time
Name: Argiro K.
Date: June 2003
Why does bacterial growth increase slowly in the beginning and very rapidly
What you describe is known as the 'lag phase'. When freshly growing cells are diluted into
fresh medium, of correct temperature etc. it will take a time before they grow at their
maximum logarithmic growth rate (that rate depends on the medium and growth
conditions). This lag phase will be longer if the starter culture had reached the stationary
phase. To begin with the explanation of the latter, I imagine every cell has to adjust to
the new conditions, from stationary phase ( no growth, thus fewer ribosomes around, low
metabolism, etc) to the lag phase (maximum growth, full capacity of protein production,
cell division, etc). That period would be the lag phase.
But when starting with freshly growing cells that are simply diluted into new medium, why do
we still see a lag phase? I guess the cells experience some sort of stress, by pipetting, or
centrifuging, or simply by the handling procedure. It may also be that the cells
'see' they are suddenly with fewer mates: bacteria are able to respond to cellular density
by a process called 'quorum sensing'. How and why they do this is not fully understood, and
I do not know if it has been investigated if quorum sensing plays a role in the lag phase.
I could not find literature on this. But I would not be surprised if it does. It has been
shown that quorum sensing plays a role in entering the stationary phase (see Carbonell et
al: Control of Escherichia coli growth rate through cell density.
Microbiol Res. 2002;157(4):257-265. ). So why not in the lag phase?
Here is a thing for you to study!
Curator of the Virtual Museum of Bacteria
Population growth in any species is usually exponential. We use bacteria to demonstrate
this because their generation time is every 20 minutes instead of about 25 years as in
humans. But the principle is the same. 1 becomes 2, 2 becomes 4, 4 becomes 8 and so on.
It takes a while for there to be noticeable growth, this is called the lag time. Once many
cells are created, each of
those divides 1-2-4-8 as well, so at this time the population shows rapid growth, or
Eventually there will be so many that the resources start to be
used up and waste builds up. There will be more bacteria dying than being "born", and
the total population starts to level off and then will decrease. Could this be model
for the human population? We will have to wait
In the simplest model of ample food and no deaths, the rate of growth is proportional to the
number of bacteria so the increase in the number is: dN = k*N*(dt) where dN is the increase
in the number of bacteria, 'k' is a constant, N is the number of bacteria and (dt) is the
time interval. If 'k' and 'N' are small then the increase in the number of bacteria dN is
also small. But as N increases (again assuming ample food and no deaths) the fractional
increase in the number of bacteria: dN/N is proportional to (dt).
This means that the number of new bacteria (dN) is proportional to 'N' and to (dt).
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Update: June 2012