Predictive Modeling of a Batch Filter Mating Process
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Quantitative characterizations of horizontal gene transfer are needed to accurately describe gene transfer processes in natural and engineered systems. A number of approaches to the quantitative description of plasmid conjugation have appeared in the literature. In this study, we seek to extend that work, motivated by the question of whether a mathematical model can accurately predict growth and conjugation dynamics in a batch process. We used flow cytometry to make time-point observations of a filter-associated mating between two E. coli strains, and fit ordinary differential equation models to the data. A model comparison analysis identified the model formulation that is best supported by the data. Identifiability analysis revealed that the parameters were estimated with acceptable accuracy. The predictive power of the model was assessed by comparison with test data that demanded extrapolation from the training experiments. This study represents the first attempt to assess the quality of model predictions for plasmid conjugation. Our successful application of this approach lays a foundation for predictive modeling that can be used both in the study of natural plasmid transmission and in model-based design of engineering approaches that employ conjugation, such as plasmid-mediated bioaugmentation.
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