A method for the on-line calculation of conversion rates and yield coefficients under dynamic process conditions was developed. The method is based on cumulated mass balances using a moving average method. Elemental balances were used to test the measured cumulated quantities for gross errors and inappropriate stoichiometry definition followed by data reconciliation and estimation of non-measured conversion rates, using a bioprocess set-up including multiple on-line analysis techniques. The quantitative potential of the proposed method is demonstrated by executing transient experiments in aerobic cultures of Saccharomyces cerevisiae on glucose. Rates and yield coefficients could be consistently quantified in shift-up, shift-down, and accelerostat experiments. The method shows the capability to describe quantitatively transient changes in metabolism including uncoupling of catabolism and anabolism, also for the case when multiple components of metabolism are not measured. The validity of the experiment can be evaluated on-line. Additionally, the method detects with high sensitivity inappropriate stoichiometry definition, such as a change in state of metabolism. It was shown that concentration values can be misleading for the identification of the metabolic state. In contrast, the proposed method provides a clear picture of the metabolic state and new physiological regulations could be revealed. Hence, the novelty of the proposed method is the on-line availability of consistent stoichiometric coefficients allowing a significant speed up in strain characterization and bioprocess development using minimal knowledge of the metabolism. Additionally, it opens up the use of transient experiments for physiological studies. © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Biotechnol Bioeng 75: 345–354, 2001.
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