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Plant Cell Rep. 2010 May;29(5):485-94. doi: 10.1007/s00299-010-0837-5. Epub 2010 Mar 9.

Characterization of aggregate size in Taxus suspension cell culture.

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Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003, USA.


Plant cells grow as aggregates in suspension culture, but little is known about the dynamics of aggregation, and no routine methodology exists to measure aggregate size. In this study, we evaluate several different methods to characterize aggregate size in Taxus suspension cultures, in which aggregate diameters range from 50 to 2,000 microm, including filtration and image analysis, and develop a novel method using a specially equipped Coulter counter system. We demonstrate the suitability of this technology to measure plant cell culture aggregates, and show that it can be reliably used to measure total biomass accumulation compared to standard methods such as dry weight. Furthermore, we demonstrate that all three methods can be used to measure an aggregate size distribution, but that the Coulter counter is more reliable and much faster, and also provides far better resolution. While absolute measurements of aggregate size differ based on the three evaluation techniques, we show that linear correlations are sufficient to account for these differences (R(2) > 0.99). We then demonstrate the utility of the novel Coulter counter methodology by monitoring the dynamics of a batch process and find that the mean aggregate size increases by 55% during the exponential growth phase, but decreases during stationary phase. The results indicate that the Coulter counter method can be routinely used for advanced process characterization, particularly to study the relationship between aggregate size and secondary metabolite production, as well as a source of reliable experimental data for modeling aggregation dynamics in plant cell culture.

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