Theory for Transitions Between Exponential and Stationary Phases: Universal Laws for Lag Time

Condensed Matter journal club

Theory for Transitions Between Exponential and Stationary Phases: Universal Laws for Lag Time

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The quantitative characterization of bacterial growth has attracted substantial attention since Monod’s pioneering study. Theoretical and experimental works have uncovered several laws for describing the exponential growth phase, in which the number of cells grows exponentially. However, microorganism growth also exhibits lag, stationary, and death phases under starvation conditions, in which cell growth is highly suppressed, for which quantitative laws or theories are markedly underdeveloped. In fact, the models commonly adopted for the exponential phase that consist of autocatalytic chemical components, including ribosomes, can only show exponential growth or decay in a population; thus, phases that halt growth are not realized. Here, we propose a simple, coarse-grained cell model that includes an extra class of macromolecular components in addition to the autocatalytic active components that facilitate cellular growth. These extra components form a complex with the active components to inhibit the catalytic process. Depending on the nutrient condition, the model exhibits typical transitions among the lag, exponential, stationary, and death phases. Furthermore, the lag time needed for growth recovery after starvation follows the square root of the starvation time and is inversely related to the maximal growth rate. This is in agreement with experimental observations, in which the length of time of cell starvation is memorized in the slow accumulation of molecules. Moreover, the lag time distributed among cells is skewed with a long time tail. If the starvation time is longer, an exponential tail appears, which is also consistent with experimental data. Our theory further predicts a strong dependence of lag time on the speed of substrate depletion, which can be tested experimentally. The present model and theoretical analysis provide universal growth laws beyond the exponential phase, offering insight into how cells halt growth without entering the death phase.

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