Join Our Whatsapp and Telegram Channel to Get Free eBooks Telegram | Whatsapp

Bacterial Growth Curve Protocol

What is Bacterial Growth Curve?

The bacterial growth curve is a graphical representation of the growth of a population of bacteria in a closed system over time. It typically consists of four phases:

  1. Lag Phase: In this phase, bacteria adapt to their new environment, synthesizing enzymes needed for growth. There is little or no cell division during this phase.
  2. Logarithmic (Log or Exponential) Phase: Also known as the exponential growth phase, this is when bacteria reproduce at their maximum rate. The population doubles at regular intervals, and the number of cells increases exponentially.
  3. Stationary Phase: In this phase, the growth rate slows down and eventually stops. The number of new cells produced equals the number of cells that die, leading to a stable population size.
  4. Death Phase: In this phase, the number of dying cells exceeds the number of new cells being produced. The population declines until all cells die or enter a dormant state.

The shape and duration of each phase can vary depending on the bacterial species, the nutrients available, and other environmental factors. Understanding the growth curve is important in various fields, including microbiology, food science, and environmental science, as it helps in predicting bacterial behavior and designing strategies to control bacterial growth.

Principle of Bacterial Growth Curve

Bacterial growth curves are fundamental tools in microbiology, illustrating the dynamics of bacterial populations in a closed system over time. Here, we delve into the principles underpinning the bacterial growth curve, highlighting its four distinct phases: lag, log (exponential), stationary, and decline (death).

  1. Lag Phase:
    • Definition: A period of slow or negligible growth immediately following inoculation into a new environment.
    • Factors:
      • Physiological adaptation of cells to the new culture conditions.
      • Dilution of exoenzymes due to initial low cell densities.
    • Importance: During this phase, bacteria are synthesizing enzymes necessary for growth, preparing for the exponential phase.
  2. Log or Exponential Phase:
    • Definition: A phase characterized by rapid and exponential growth of bacterial cells.
    • Mean Generation Time: Cells double at regular intervals, known as the mean generation time.
    • Importance: This phase represents the optimal growth rates of bacteria, where they are metabolically active and rapidly dividing.
  3. Stationary Phase:
    • Definition: A phase where growth rate slows, and the number of new cells being produced equals the number of cells dying.
    • Causes: Often due to a lack of nutrients or the accumulation of toxic waste products.
    • Importance: The stationary phase highlights the limitations of the environment and the capacity of bacteria to adapt to stress conditions.
  4. Decline or Death Phase:
    • Definition: A phase where the death rate of cells exceeds the growth rate, leading to a net decrease in viable cell numbers.
    • Causes: Depletion of nutrients, buildup of waste products, and other unfavorable environmental conditions.
    • Importance: This phase underscores the finite lifespan of bacterial populations in closed systems and the eventual exhaustion of resources.

Turbidimetric Determination:

  • Method: Involves using a spectrophotometer to measure changes in the optical density (OD) of a bacterial culture over time.
  • Principle: As the number of cells in the culture increases, light transmission through the sample decreases.
  • Utility: This method provides a simple and efficient means of tracking bacterial growth trends in liquid media, offering insights into growth dynamics without the need for labor-intensive cell counting methods.

Materials Required for Bacterial Growth Curve

To conduct a bacterial growth curve experiment, certain materials are essential for culturing bacteria and monitoring their growth dynamics. Here, we outline the key materials needed for this experiment:

  1. Bacterial Culture:
    • Escherichia coli (E. coli): A commonly used bacterium in microbiology experiments, known for its rapid growth and well-characterized genetics.
  2. Broth Media:
    • Luria Bertani (LB) Broth: A nutrient-rich medium suitable for culturing a wide range of bacteria, including E. coli.
    • Nutrient Broth: Another common medium used for bacterial growth, providing essential nutrients for bacterial metabolism and growth.
  3. Glassware:
    • Conical Flasks: Used for preparing and incubating liquid bacterial cultures.
    • Measuring Cylinder: Essential for accurately measuring and dispensing liquid media and reagents.
    • Sterile Test Tubes: Used for storing and transferring bacterial cultures.
    • Sterile Petri Plates: Used for agar plate cultures and isolation of bacterial colonies.
  4. Reagents:
    • Distilled Water: Used for preparing media, diluting samples, and other laboratory procedures.
  5. Other Requirements:
    • Incubator: Provides a controlled environment for maintaining optimal temperature for bacterial growth.
    • Shaker: Used for agitating liquid cultures to ensure uniform distribution of nutrients and oxygen.
    • Spectrophotometer: Instrument for measuring the optical density (OD) of bacterial cultures, a common method for monitoring growth.
    • Micropipettes: Used for accurate and precise measurement and transfer of small volumes of liquids.
    • Tips: Disposable tips used with micropipettes to avoid contamination.
    • Sterile Loops: Used for streaking bacterial cultures on agar plates for isolation and enumeration.

Protocol for Bacterial Growth Curve

The bacterial growth curve experiment involves several steps to monitor the growth of bacterial populations over time. Here is a detailed procedure for conducting a bacterial growth curve experiment:

Day 1:

  1. Using a sterile loop, streak a loopful of bacterial culture onto an agar plate.
  2. Incubate the agar plate at 37°C for 18-24 hours to allow the bacterial colonies to grow.

Day 2:

  1. Pick up a single colony of the bacterial strain from the agar plate using a sterile loop.
  2. Inoculate the single colony into a test tube containing 10 ml of autoclaved broth.
  3. Incubate the test tube overnight at 37°C to allow the bacteria to grow in the broth.

Day 3:

  1. Prepare 250 ml of autoclaved broth in a sterile 500 ml conical flask.
  2. Inoculate 5 ml of the overnight grown bacterial culture into the conical flask containing the broth.
  3. Take the initial optical density (OD) reading at zero hour using a spectrophotometer at a wavelength of 600 nm.
  4. Incubate the flask at 37°C.

Throughout the Experiment:

  1. At regular intervals (e.g., every 30 minutes), aliquot 1 ml of the bacterial culture suspension from the conical flask.
  2. Measure the optical density (OD) of the aliquot at a wavelength of 600 nm using a spectrophotometer.
  3. Continue aliquoting and measuring the OD until the OD readings become static, indicating that the bacterial growth has reached stationary phase.
  4. Alternatively, add 50-100 µl of formaldehyde to each 1 ml aliquot of culture suspension taken after every 30 minutes. This will fix the bacterial cells and allow for OD measurement at the end of the experiment.


  1. At the end of the experiment, plot a graph with time in minutes on the X-axis and optical density at 600 nm on the Y-axis. This graph will depict the growth curve of the bacteria, showing the different phases of growth.

Result of Bacterial Growth Curve

The result of a bacterial growth curve experiment provides valuable insights into the dynamics of bacterial growth in a closed system. Here, we discuss the typical result obtained from such an experiment:

  • Logarithmic Growth Curve: The primary outcome of a bacterial growth curve experiment is a logarithmic growth curve. This curve illustrates the changes in the size of the bacterial population over time in the culture.
  • Exponential Growth Pattern: The growth curve is hyperbolic, reflecting the exponential growth pattern characteristic of bacterial populations in favorable conditions.
  • Phases of Growth: The curve typically shows four distinct phases:
    1. Lag Phase: A period of slow or negligible growth as bacteria adapt to the new environment.
    2. Log (Exponential) Phase: A phase of rapid and exponential growth, where the population size doubles at regular intervals.
    3. Stationary Phase: A phase where the growth rate slows, and the number of new cells produced equals the number of cells dying.
    4. Decline (Death) Phase: A phase where the death rate of cells exceeds the growth rate, leading to a decrease in the viable cell numbers.
  • Hyperbolic Curve: The hyperbolic shape of the curve during the exponential phase indicates the rapid increase in the bacterial population size. This phase represents the period of optimal growth conditions and metabolic activity for the bacteria.
  • Plateau Phase: The curve eventually reaches a plateau during the stationary phase, indicating that the growth rate has slowed, and the population size has stabilized.
  • Significance: The bacterial growth curve provides crucial information about the growth dynamics of bacterial populations, helping researchers understand how bacteria respond to their environment and aiding in the development of strategies to control bacterial growth in various settings.

Use of Bacterial Growth Curve

  1. Research and Experimentation: Researchers use bacterial growth curves to study the effects of various factors on bacterial growth, such as temperature, pH, nutrients, and antimicrobial agents. These curves help in understanding the optimal conditions for bacterial growth and survival.
  2. Drug Development: Bacterial growth curves are used in the development of antimicrobial drugs. By studying the growth patterns of bacteria in the presence of different drug concentrations, researchers can determine the effectiveness of the drugs in inhibiting bacterial growth.
  3. Food and Beverage Industry: In the food and beverage industry, bacterial growth curves are used to monitor and control the growth of spoilage bacteria and pathogens. This helps in ensuring the safety and quality of food products.
  4. Environmental Monitoring: Bacterial growth curves are used in environmental monitoring to assess the impact of pollutants on bacterial populations in soil, water, and air. These curves can also help in studying the biodegradation of pollutants by bacteria.
  5. Medical Diagnostics: Bacterial growth curves are used in medical diagnostics to determine the susceptibility of bacteria to antibiotics. By measuring the growth of bacteria in the presence of different antibiotic concentrations, clinicians can determine the most effective treatment for bacterial infections.
  6. Teaching and Education: Bacterial growth curves are used in teaching microbiology concepts to students. They help students understand the different phases of bacterial growth and how bacteria respond to their environment.


  • Krishnamurthi VR, Niyonshuti II, Chen J, Wang Y. A new analysis method for evaluating bacterial growth with microplate readers. PLoS One. 2021 Jan 12;16(1):e0245205. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0245205. PMID: 33434196; PMCID: PMC7802944.
  • Rogers AT, Bullard KR, Dod AC, Wang Y. Bacterial Growth Curve Measurements with a Multimode Microplate Reader. Bio Protoc. 2022 May 5;12(9):e4410. doi: 10.21769/BioProtoc.4410. PMID: 35800461; PMCID: PMC9090524.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

What is Karyotyping? What are the scope of Microbiology? What is DNA Library? What is Simple Staining? What is Negative Staining? What is Western Blot? What are Transgenic Plants? Breakthrough Discovery: Crystal Cells in Fruit Flies Key to Oxygen Transport What is Northern Blotting? What is Southern Blotting?
What is Karyotyping? What are the scope of Microbiology? What is DNA Library? What is Simple Staining? What is Negative Staining? What is Western Blot? What are Transgenic Plants? Breakthrough Discovery: Crystal Cells in Fruit Flies Key to Oxygen Transport What is Northern Blotting? What is Southern Blotting?
Adblocker detected! Please consider reading this notice.

We've detected that you are using AdBlock Plus or some other adblocking software which is preventing the page from fully loading.

We don't have any banner, Flash, animation, obnoxious sound, or popup ad. We do not implement these annoying types of ads!

We need money to operate the site, and almost all of it comes from our online advertising.

Please add to your ad blocking whitelist or disable your adblocking software.