The dynamics of single-substrate continuous cultures: the role of transport enzymes. Academic Article uri icon


  • A chemostat limited by a single growth-limiting substrate displays a rich spectrum of dynamics. Depending on the flow rate and feed concentration, the chemostat settles into a steady state or executes sustained oscillations. The transients in response to abrupt increases in the flow rate or the feed concentration are also quite complex. For example, if the increase in the flow rate is small, there is no perceptible change in the substrate concentration. If the increase in the flow rate is large, there is a large increase in the substrate concentration lasting several hours or days before the culture adjusts to a new steady state. In the latter case, the substrate concentration and cell density frequently undergo damped oscillations during their approach to the steady state. In this work, we formulate a simple structured model containing the inducible transport enzyme as the key intracellular variable. The model displays the foregoing dynamics under conditions similar to those employed in the experiments. The model suggests that long recovery times (on the order of several hours to several days) can occur because the initial transport enzyme level is too small to cope with the increased substrate supply. The substrate concentration, therefore, increases until the enzyme level is built up to a sufficiently high level by the slow process of enzyme induction. Damped and sustained oscillations can occur because transport enzyme synthesis is autocatalytic, and hence, destabilizing. At low dilution rates, the response of stabilizing processes, such as enzyme dilution and substrate consumption, becomes very slow, leading to damped and sustained oscillations.

published proceedings

  • J Theor Biol

author list (cited authors)

  • Shoemaker, J., Reeves, G. T., Gupta, S., Pilyugin, S. S., Egli, T., & Narang, A.

citation count

  • 12

complete list of authors

  • Shoemaker, Jason||Reeves, Gregory T||Gupta, Shakti||Pilyugin, Sergei S||Egli, Thomas||Narang, Atul

publication date

  • June 2003