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Microb Biotechnol. 2019 Sep;12(5):1064-1075. doi: 10.1111/1751-7915.13442. Epub 2019 May 29.

Segregostat: a novel concept to control phenotypic diversification dynamics on the example of Gram-negative bacteria.

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Terra Research and Teaching Centre, Microbial Processes and Interactions (MiPI), Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech, University of Liège, Gembloux, Belgium.
Departamento de Ingeniería Celular y Biocatálisis, Instituto de Biotecnología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Cuernavaca, Morelos, México.
Multiscale Bioengineering, Bielefeld University, Universitätsstraße 25, 33615, Bielefeld, Germany.


Controlling and managing the degree of phenotypic diversification of microbial populations is a challenging task. This task not only requires detailed knowledge regarding diversification mechanisms but also advanced technical set-ups for the real-time analyses and control of population behaviour on single-cell level. In this work, set-up, design and operation of the so called segregostat are described which, in contrast to a traditional chemostat, allows the control of phenotypic diversification of microbial populations over time. Two exemplary case studies will be discussed, i.e. phenotypic diversification dynamics of Eschericia coli and Pseudomonas putida based on outer membrane permeabilization, emphasizing the applicability and versatility of the proposed approach. Upon nutrient limitation, cell population tends to diversify into several subpopulations exhibiting distinct phenotypic features (non-permeabilized and permeabilized cells). Online analysis leads to the determination of the ratio between cells in these two states, which in turn triggers the addition of glucose pulses in order to maintain a predefined diversification ratio. These results prove that phenotypic diversification can be controlled by means of defined pulse-frequency modulation within continuously running bioreactor set-ups. This lays the foundation for systematic studies, not only of phenotypic diversification but also for all processes where dynamics single-cell approaches are required, such as synthetic co-culture processes.

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