Predicting stability of mixed microbial cultures from single species experiments: 1. Phenomenological model. Academic Article uri icon


  • The growth of mixed microbial cultures on mixtures of substrates is a fundamental problem of both theoretical and practical interest. On the one hand, the literature is abundant with experimental studies of mixed-substrate phenomena [T. Egli, The ecological and physiological significance of the growth of heterotrophic microorganisms with mixtures of substrates, Adv. Microbiol. Ecol. 14 (1995) 305-386]. On the other hand, a number of mathematical models of mixed-substrate growth have been analyzed in the last three decades. These models typically assume specific kinetic expressions for substrate uptake and biomass growth rates and their predictions are formulated in terms of parameters of the model. In this work, we formulate and analyze a general mathematical model of mixed microbial growth on mixtures of substitutable substrates. Using this model, we study the effect of mutual inhibition of substrate uptake rates on the stability of the equilibria of the model. Specifically, we address the following question: How much of the dynamics exhibited by two competing species can be inferred from single species data? We provide geometric criteria for stability of various types of equilibria corresponding to non-competitive exclusion, competitive exclusion, and coexistence of two competing species in terms of growth isoclines and consumption curves. A growth isocline is a curve in the plane of substrate concentrations corresponding to the zero net growth of a given species. In [G.T. Reeves, A. Narang, S.S. Pilyugin, Growth of mixed cultures on mixtures of substitutable substrates: The operating diagram for a structured model, J. Theor. Biol. 226 (2004) 143-157], we introduced consumption curves as sets of all possible combinations of substrate concentrations corresponding to balanced growth of a single microbial species. Both types of curves can be obtained in single species experiments.

published proceedings

  • Math Biosci

author list (cited authors)

  • Pilyugin, S. S., Reeves, G. T., & Narang, A.

citation count

  • 7

complete list of authors

  • Pilyugin, Sergei S||Reeves, Gregory T||Narang, Atul

publication date

  • December 2004