The use of chemostats in microbial systems biology

Naomi Ziv, Nathan J. Brandt, David Gresham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cells regulate their rate of growth in response to signals from the external world. As the cell grows, diverse cellular processes must be coordinated including macromolecular synthesis, metabolism and ultimately, commitment to the cell division cycle. The chemostat, a method of experimentally controlling cell growth rate, provides a powerful means of systematically studying how growth rate impacts cellular processes - including gene expression and metabolism - and the regulatory networks that control the rate of cell growth. When maintained for hundreds of generations chemostats can be used to study adaptive evolution of microbes in environmental conditions that limit cell growth. We describe the principle of chemostat cultures, demonstrate their operation and provide examples of their various applications. Following a period of disuse after their introduction in the middle of the twentieth century, the convergence of genome-scale methodologies with a renewed interest in the regulation of cell growth and the molecular basis of adaptive evolution is stimulating a renaissance in the use of chemostats in biological research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere50168
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number80
StatePublished - Oct 14 2013


  • Adaptive evolution
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell biology
  • Chemostat
  • Computational biology
  • Environmental microbiology
  • Environmental sciences
  • Genetics
  • Growth-rate
  • Issue 80
  • Molecular biology
  • Nutrient limitation
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae
  • Steady state
  • Systems biology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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