Lag Phase

When a culture of bacteria is diluted and then transferred into a different medium, the number of viable cells does not immediately increase. They go through a "tooling up" or lag phase prior to active multiplication. During this time they synthesize macromolecules required for multiplication, including enzymes, ribosomes, and nucleic acids, and they generate energy in the form of ATP.

The length of the lag phase depends on conditions in the original culture and medium into which they are transferred. If cells are transferred from a rich medium to a chemically defined one, the lag time tends to be longer. This is because cells must begin making enzymes to synthesize components missing in the new medium. A similar situation occurs when a stock culture stored in the refrigerator for several weeks is inoculated into fresh medium. In contrast, if young cells are transferred to a medium similar in composition, the lag time is quite short.

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