A novel feeding strategy that prolongs rapid growth rates for Escherichia coli fermentations to moderately high cell density is presented. High-density fermentations are a common and successful means of producing biological products. However, acetate accumulation can be a substantial problem in these procedures. To avoid this problem, many feeding strategies and host modifications have been developed, but all result in relatively low growth rates. If a faster growth rate could be maintained, the growth phase of the process would be shortened, leading to increased productivity. It is also possible that the subsequent specific production rate could be enhanced by growing the early culture at a faster rate. We have developed a procedure to enable rapid growth to a cell density of 20 g/L and have used cell-free protein synthesis to evaluate the relative potential of the resulting cells for producing recombinant proteins. The method uses glucose pulses and the duration of the dissolved oxygen response to calculate the appropriate glucose feed rate based on the glucose demand of the culture. Amino acids and vitamins were supplied in the medium to increase the growth rate. We were able to sustain a growth rate of 0.8/h up to 20 g/L dry cell weight without significant acetate accumulation. Analysis of amino acid consumption indicates that cell composition is an accurate predictor of amino acid demand for most amino acids. Cell-free protein synthesis was used to compare the protein production potential of the high-density cultures with that of cells grown in complex medium and harvested at low cell density and maximum growth rate. Protein production for the extract from the controlled, high-density fermentations was 950 mg/L compared with 860 mg/L for the low-density control. Therefore, the new control procedure has promising potential for developing rapid and productive industrial fermentations.
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