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Microbiology. 2004 Jun;150(Pt 6):1637-48.

Specific growth rate and not cell density controls the general stress response in Escherichia coli.

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Swiss Federal Institute for Environmental Science and Technology, PO Box 611, Uberlandstrasse 133, CH-8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland.


In batch cultures of Escherichia coli, the intracellular concentration of the general stress response sigma factor RpoS typically increases during the transition from the exponential to the stationary growth phase. However, because this transition is accompanied by complex physico-chemical and biological changes, which signals predominantly elicit this induction is still the subject of debate. Careful design of the growth environment in chemostat and batch cultures allowed the separate study of individual factors affecting RpoS. Specific growth rate, and not cell density or the nature of the growth-limiting nutrient, controlled RpoS expression and RpoS-dependent hydroperoxidase activity. Furthermore, it was demonstrated that the standard E. coli minimal medium A (MMA) is not suitable for high-cell-density cultivation because it lacks trace elements. Previously reported cell-density effects in chemostat cultures of E. coli can be explained by a hidden, secondary nutrient limitation, which points to the importance of medium design and appropriate experimental set-up for studying cell-density effects.

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