Engineering, 2012, 5, 180-183
doi:10.4236/eng.2012.410B047 Published Online October 2012 (
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. ENG
Micro-environmentally Restricted Yeast Cell Gr owth within
Ca-alginate Microbeads*
Ivana Pajic-Lijakovic1, Branko Bugarski1, Milenko Plavsic1, Steva Levic2, Ana Kalusevic2, Viktor Nedovic2
1Dept. of Chem. and Polymer Eng., University of Belgrade, Faculty of Technology and Metallurgy, Belgrade, Serbia
2Dept. of Food Technol., University of Belgrade, Faculty of Agriculture, Belgrade, Serbia
Received 2012
Micro -environmental restriction effects to yeast cell growth obtained within Ca-alginate microbeads are considered. It is complex
phenomenon influenced by: (1) relaxation of expanded polymer network around the cellular clusters, (2) forces generated by cell
growth inside the beads and (3) interactions between solvent, network parts and cells. The result ing effects are measured experi men-
tally by estimating volume of microbeads and yeast cell concentration as function of time of cultivation. Comparative analysis of
dynamics of cell growth and increase of microbead volume through four regimes indicates that reversible and irreversible local
structural changes of Ca-alginate hydrogel induces micro-environmental restrictions to cell growth. The mechanism of restrictions
includes both mechanical an d electrostatic effects.
Keywords: Yeast Cells; Micro-environmental Restrictions; Ca-alginate Hydrogel Matrix; Structural Changes; Pattern of Volumetric
Yea s t Gr o wt h
1. Introduction
There is a growing interest in using immobilized cell systems
for various applications in biotechnology, biomedicine and food
technology [1-5]. The success of such applications depends on
achieving suitable conditions for cell growth inside microbeads.
It is based primarily on the optimization of the performance of
microbead matrix. Ca-alginate hydrogel have been the most
frequently used matrix for immobilization of yeast cells.
Significant attempts have been made to examine the
rheological response of hydrogel matrix to stresses generated
by compression, shear and tension [7-9]. However, little is
known about the rheological responses of variously structured
matrixes cau sed b y cells gro wth. The gro wing cel ls press t o th e
surrounding and create a new space for further cells growth
inside the matrix. Such cell actions are obtained on two time
scales, i. e. on e is the migration time (the short-time scale) while
the other is the growing time (the long-time scale).
Yeast population entrapped in Ca-alginate hydrogel matrix
grew into many small cell clusters located at multiple positions
in the microbeads. Interactions between clusters can be ne-
glected [3-4]. Consequently, the number of clusters is approxi-
mately the sa me while the n umber of cells p er cluster incr eases
during cell cultivation.
Hydrogel with density in the range of 1-2 % have good me-
chanical behaviours [3-6] and ensure optimal nutrient transfer
through the microbeads. Many authors [1-5] observed homo-
geneous cell distribution within 2 % and 1.5 % Ca-alginate
microbeads, respectively. However, some of them [2-5] re-
ported early suppression of cell growth within hydrogel in op-
timal nutrient supported systems. It should be connected with
micro-environmental restrictions to cell growth.
The primary function of the alginate matrixes in biotechnol-
ogy applications is to provide mechanical and biological integ-
rity of immobilized cell population by ensuring the optimal
packing state. Matrixes simultaneously transmitted mechanical
signals to the cells and the developing population. As Ca2+ ions
in bucked egg-box junction are being released by cell actions,
electrostatic repulsion between the liberated chains enhances
the additional swelling effects of the alginate gel. This electro-
static repulsion forces have the feedback action on cell growth
[3-4] .
Phenomenon of the micro-environmental restrictions gener-
ated within hydrogel includes following steps from the
rheological point of view: (1) the immobilized clusters induce
radial deformations of the surrounding hydrogel matrix during
clusters expansion [10], (2) the radial deformations induce gen-
eration of the mechanical stress within hydrogel around the
clusters (the external stress) [3,4,10,11], (3) the external stress
around the clusters induces generation of the internal stress
within cell clusters [11-12] and (5) the internal stress provokes
the biological response of cells [2-4,13]. The biological re-
sponse of cells influences metabolic activity of yeast. On that
base, it is necessary to connect the rheological behaviour of
hydrogel with cell growth dynamics.
Increase of the internal stress within immobilized cell clus-
ters induces chan ges in cell growth d ynamics [3-4]. Significant
attempts have been made to examine the pattern of volume
growth of yeast cell population under various nutrient support-
ing conditions [1,5]. The pattern of volumetric yeast growth
depends on the volumetric states of single cells. The volumetric
states depend on: (1) the ability to budding and (2) the cell ag-
ing [14-16]. However, little is reported about the pattern of
volu me gro wth u nder actio n of generated mechanical compres-
*Ministry of Education and Scien ce of Serbia
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. E NG
sive stress within hydrogel around immobilized clusters.
The aim of this work is to estimate the micro-environmen-
tally restricted yeast cell growth in conjunction with the struc-
tural changes o f Ca-al gi nate hydrogel mat r ix.
2. Experimenta l Par t
2.1. Imobilization and C ul tivation P r ocedure
The 2% w/w Na-alginate solution was prepared by dissolving
10 g of sodium alginate powder (Sigma- medium viscosity) into
500 ml of distillated water. The brewer's yeast (Saccharomyces
uvarum) was cultivated at 25 oC in sterile medium of 11% w/w
extract in shake flask. Polymer/cell suspension was formed by
mixing of 100 ml of Na-alginate solution with 25 ml of thick
brewer's yeast suspension at room temperature. The cell sus-
pension was forced out of the tip of the need le at constant flow
rate (25.2 ml/h). The droplets were formed by the action of
electrostatic forces [17].
After gelling the microbeads were placed in double distil-
lated water to remove un-reacted material and low molecular
weight byproducts. Spherical droplets were formed by extru-
sion of Na-alginate/yeast cell suspension into 1 % CaCl2 solu-
tion. After gelling the microbeads were placed in double distil-
lated water to remove un-reacted material and low molecular
weight by-products. Microbeads with cells were cultivated in
500 ml flasks, which contained 150 ml of medium and 5 g of
microbeads in each experimental group, and these were placed
on orbital shaker at 115 rpm and 25 oC.
2.2. Anal yti cal Methods
Total yeast cell concentration in the beads was estimated by
using Thoma counting chamber after dissolution of the beads.
The initial yeast concentration (
) in the beads was about 3 x
106 cells/ml. The microbeads were also sampled twice per day
from the cultivation flask and cell concentration was measured
in the same way.
Local cell co ncentrat ion per microbead layers was calculated
from the exp erimentall y determin ed sur face fraction of cells for
various microbead cross sections. The surface fraction of cells
was estimated by ultramicroton cutting the microbead. The
alginate microbeads sampled for image analysis were fixed in
2.5 % glutaraldehyde, embedded in araldite, cross-sectioned by
LKB III ultramicrotom and stained with hematoxylin and eosin
(H&E). The images of the microbeads cross-sections (the
number of sections was six for each bead) where acquired using
a solid-state CCD camera (Hitachi) mounted on an inverted
microscope (Nikon Diaphot), digitized by a CG-7 frame Grab-
ber (Scion Corp., Frederick, MD) and analyzed using Image
Pro Plus software. Distribution of the cells and the colonies, as
well as, the surface fraction of cross sections occupied by cell
colonies were determined by automatic counting and measure-
ment of all objects darker than background and equal or larger
than single cell. I t was assumed that onl y one cell layer is visi-
ble, due to small thickness of the histological cross sections.
Diameters o f the microbead s were measured with an accura-
cy of 10 μm using optical microscope. The average microbead
diameter an d stand ard deviatio ns were then cal culated from th e
measured data.
3. Resutls and Discussion
We considered the micro-environmentally restricted dynamics
of yeast cell growth within Ca-alginate microbead. The nature
of the restriction phenomenon should be connected with the
local st ructural chan ges of the hyd rogel. Cell clu ster expansion
induced the structural changes of the matrix and provoked the
complex rheological response with additional dissipation ef-
Based on our previous experience [2-4], the dissipative ef-
fects were deeply related with the deformation of the alginate
matrixes. These changes of the matrixes within interfaces
around the clusters included both, the reversible deformation of
domains, as well as the partial domains disintegration that
caused permanent irreversible deformation. This complex
process was influenced by various multi-scale interactions: the
interactions between domains themselves and the interactions
between chains within the domains, as well.
Consequently, we estimated both:
1) changes of the microbead volume Vb(t) and
2) changes of the cell concentration per microbead ρ(t) as
function of the growing time.
Changes of the microbead volume depended on: the volume
changes of cell population and the volume changes of hydrogel.
On one side, the volumetric state of cell population depended
on the cell number and the volume of single cells. The pattern
of volume growth of single cells was influenced by the budding
state of the cells and the cell aging status. On the other side, the
volumetric state of hydrogel matrix included the sum of local
reversibl e and irrever sible d eformation contributions within the
interfaces around th e immobilized clusters.
Increase of the average bead volume vs. the growing time
was presented in Figure 1.
Averaged microbead volume increased rapidly during first 3
days with the averaged rate equal to 5x10-4 ml/days. The aver-
aged rate of increase the microbead volume decreased during
next 3 days period to 6.7x10-5 ml/days. The microbead volume
increased 3 times during 6 days of cultivations. The main goal
of this consider ation was to es timate what has been happen with
the hydrogel on one side and within the immobilized cell popu-
lation on the other. For additional information, we considered
changes of the cell concentration as function of the growing
Figure 1. Increase of the averaged Ca-alginate microbead volume
as function of the growing time resulted by the immobilized yeast
cell gro wth .
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. ENG
Figure 2. Yeast cell growth in Ca-alginate microbead as function of
the growing time – within four regi mes.
Interesting phenomenon was observed. In Figure 2 was p re-
sented the number of cells in a bead per unit volume, ρ vs. the
growing time, to est imate t he tren ds of cell growth changes. For
first ca. 1 da y, the steep increas e o f the cell co ncent ration up to
1.4 x 108 cells/ml with the averaged rate 1.37 X 108 cells/(ml
days) was observed. It indicated good conditions for cell
growth (the regime I). During next day, the rate of growth sig-
nificant ly decreased up to 1 x 107 cells/(ml days) ca. 13.7 t imes
(the regi me II). The cell con cen trat io n fur ther in creased to 3.7 x
108 cells/ml obtained at 4 days (the regime III). Then, the rate
of growth slightly increased up to 6 days and the cell concen-
tration increased to 3.9 x 108 cells/ml (th e r egime IV).
The main goal of this consideration was to estimate the mi-
cro-environmentally dynamics of cell growth. In the regime I
cells had a lot of free space to grow in the swollen gel matrix.
On that base, the regime I corresponded to slightly mechani-
cally limited growth conditions. With increase of the cell num-
ber, they felt elastic resistance of the network. With further
increase o f cell n umber, the restri ctions of the network beca me
so high (the regime II). Clusters reached the critical sizes and
had enough power to destroy ionic bonds. Cells were able to
make available signi ficant n ew free sp ace withi n th e network. It
corresponded to increase in the cell number within the regime
III. In the regime IV , cells fil led free space within t he network.
The resistance effects within the network became high and
suppressed further cell growth. The restrictions in the regime
IV was caused by mechanical an d el ectrostatic effects.
It was inter esting that quit differe nt cou rses induced i ncrease
of the microb ead volume with the averag ed rate 5x10- 4 ml/days
within first three regimes (Figure 1). The regimes I and III
corresponded to rapid increase in the cell number. However, the
regime II corresponded to the significant structural changes of
hydrogel with in t he interfaces aro un d the clust ers. New charges
were generated by breaking of the network ionic bonds in the
hydrogel. The cell membranes were also partially negative
charged. Such irreversible structural changes of hydrogel ma-
trix induced additional repulsive interactions between the cells
on one side and the alginate chains within the interfaces around
the clusters on the other. Some authors have detected such
charges [1-4]. The irreversible structural changes induced the
increase of the microbead volume in the regime II. Increase of
the microbead volume was suppressed within the regime 4. It
was connected with the restrictions in cell growth dynamics.
4. Conclusions
The results of this study point to some important
cause-consequence relationships between the matrix rheologi-
cal responses and yeast cell growth within Ca-alginate mi-
crobeads. Th e nature of the micro-environmental restrictions to
cell growth should be connected with the structural changes of
hydrogel within the interfaces around the immobilized clusters.
Changes within the interfaces are difficult to trace experimen-
To estimate the complex multi-scale mechanism of cell/
olymer interactions, we consider the increase of microbead
volume and the in crease of cell c on centrat ion as function of the
growing time within four regimes. The regime I corresponds to
slightly mechanically limited cell growth and local elastic de-
formation of hydrogel. The regime II corresponds to restricted
cell growth and local plastic deformation of hydrogel. The re-
gime III corresponds to rapid growth of cells within the addi-
tional free space within hydrogel. The regime IV corresponds to
the restricted cell growth. Restriction is caused by mechanical
and electrostatic effects. Based on comparative analysis we
point that both mechanical and electrostatic effects contribute to
micro-environmental restrictions.
This consideration should be used for optimization the per-
formance of hydrogel matrix in order to achieve higher yeast
cell concentrations.
5 Acknowledgements
The support by grants (# III 46010 and # III46001) from the
Ministry of Education and Science, Republic of Serbia is
grateful ly acknowledged.
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