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Birth, growth and death as structuring operators in bacterial population dynamics

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Vasile Lavric, Professor David GrahamORCiD


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A new model is presented that describes microbial population dynamics that emerge from complex interactions among birth, growth and death as oriented, discrete events. Specifically, birth and death act as structuring operators for individual organisms within the population, which become synchronised as age clusters (called cell-generations that are structured in age-classes) that are born at the same time and die in concert; a pattern very consistent with recent experimental data that show bacterial group death correlates with temporal population dynamics in chemostats operating at carrying capacity. Although the model only assumes "natural death" (i.e., no death from predation or antimicrobial exposure), it indicates that short-term non-linear dynamic behavior can exist in a bacterial population growing under longer term pseudo-steady state conditions (a confined dynamic equilibrium). After summarizing traditional assumptions about bacterial aging, simulations of batch, continuous-flow, and recycling bioreactors are used to show how population dynamics vary as function of hydraulic retention time, microbial kinetics, substrate level, and other factors that cause differential changes in the distribution of living and dead cells within the system. In summary, we show that population structures induced by birth and death (as discrete and delayed events) intrinsically create a non-linear dynamic system, implying that a true steady-state can never exist in growing bacterial populations. This conclusion is discussed within the context of process stability in biotechnology.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Lavric V, Graham DW

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Theoretical Biology

Year: 2010

Volume: 264

Issue: 1

Pages: 45-54

Print publication date: 25/01/2010

ISSN (print): 0022-5193

Publisher: Elsevier BV


DOI: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2010.01.020


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