Plant cell suspension culture rheology

Wayne R. Curtis, Alden H. Emery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


The results of rheological measurements on 10 different plant cell suspension cultures are presented. Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco) suspension cultures grown in serial batch subculture display high viscosity and power law rheology. This “undesirable” rheology is shown to be a result of elongated cell morphology. The rheology of Papaver somniferum (poppy) cell suspensions is quite different; poppy suspensions behave as Newtonian fluids and have relatively low viscosity (less than 15 cP) at fresh cell densities up to 250 g/L. This flow behavior can be attributed to a lack of elongation in batch‐grown poppy cells. A simple correlation for the viscosity as a function of cell density is developed for poppy suspensions up to 300 g fresh weight (FW)/L. It is shown that tobacco cells do not elongate when grown in semicontinuous culture (daily media replacement). These semicontinuously cultured cells have rheological behavior that is indistinguishable from that of poppy, further confirming the dependence of rheology on plant cell morphology. The rheology of a wide variety of other plant suspensions at 200 g FW/L is presented. Most cell suspensions, including soybean, cotton, bindweed, and potato, display low viscosities similar to poppy suspensions. Only carrot and atriplex exhibit slight pseudoplastic behavior which corresponded to a slight degree of cellular elongation for these cultures. This demonstrates that complex rheology associated with elongated cell morphology is much less common than low‐viscosity Newtonian behavior. High viscosity in plant cell culture is therefore not an intrinsic characteristic of plant cells but, instead, is a result of the ability to grow cultures to extremely high cell densities due to low biological oxygen demand. © 1993 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)520-526
Number of pages7
JournalBiotechnology and bioengineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 5 1993

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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