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Parameter identification and quantitative comparison of differential equations that describe physiological adaptation of a bacterial population under iron limitation

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  • The onset of a typical bacterial growth curve shows a period of very slow increase in population counts. This is a period of physiological adaptation to new environmental conditions. While in mathematical biology much progress was made in recent years to describe physiologically structured populations, these models typically have too many degrees of freedom to easily allow a model identification against experimental data. Therefore, and for all practical purposes, microbiologists have proposed simpler models of physiological adaptation in the past, usually in connection with standard growth curves. In this paper we compare the performance of four such lag-time models, each of which described by a scalar differential equation, when combined with a model of a siderophore producing bacterial population under iron limitation. In each case this yields a system of five nonlinear ordinary differential equations that we compare against experimental data, by solving the associated vector optimization problem. Our main finding is that a big step in accuracy is made already by including a simple lag-time model that only introduces one additional degree of freedom in the parameter identification problem (the initial state of health of the population), and that this can be reliably improved if a further degree of freedom, describing the dynamics of the physiological recovery process, is included. The vector optimization problem is solved by scalarizing it with a linear functional and solving the resulting scalar optimization problem. The growth parameters that are identified in this procedure are found to be robust with respect to the scalarization coefficient.
    Mathematics Subject Classification: Primary: 92D25; Secondary: 34A55.


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