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Microbial Cell Dynamics Laboratory

MCDL Bioreactor
The full power of RNA, protein, and metabolite profiling and associated computational technologies is realized by using bioreactors at PNNL. Bioreactors exactly reproduce culture conditions over multiple experiments and obtain cell populations with a minimal level of biochemical variability.

Systems Biology at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has invested in the Microbial Cell Dynamics Laboratory (MCDL) to enable scientists to study the molecular details of microbes under relevant environmental conditions. The major goal of the MCDL is to simultaneously probe the transcriptome, proteome, and metabolome of prokaryotic cultures, simple consortia, and, eventually, microbial communities. Cell modeling and simulation tools developed at PNNL will be essential components.

The mission of the MCDL is to develop a molecular-based understanding of how individual organisms in microbial assemblages interact and behave in their natural surroundings, including sensing and response to their physico-chemical environment and cell-cell signaling between different species in the assemblage. The MCDL seeks to integrate culture conditions that more closely represent chemical and physical conditions in natural environments with advanced and novel analytical capabilities. Analytical capabilities include cellular imaging; nucleic acid, protein, and metabolite characterization technologies; the ability to study cell assemblages at the population and single-cell scales; and the use of nondestructive approaches to measure dynamic processes in real time.

MCDL Capabilities

MCDL Brochure
View MCDL brochure
(PDF 503K).

By coupling experience and expertise in environmental microbiology with capabilities in molecular and computational sciences, the Systems Biology program is developing unique capabilities for investigating the function and structure of biological macromolecules, microbial cells, mixed populations of microbial cells, and microbial communities. The MCDL capabilities include:

  • dedicated collocated laboratories and analytical stations, including mobile culturing equipment and analytical instruments
  • small reactor-scale (1-50 liter) culturing of prokaryotic cells under equilibrium conditions for generating small cell populations
  • systems for growth and analysis of planktonic cells and cells associated with surfaces or residing in biofilms
  • establishment of gradients in physical and/or chemical conditions during cell culturing
  • systems for controlling cell-cell interaction distance and rates of substrate diffusion to probe cell-signaling events
  • rapid harvesting of cultures and processing and delivery of cells and components to multiple analytical instruments with minimal composition alteration
  • real-time analysis of in situ biological, chemical, and physical processes and parameters
  • analysis of gene expression and signaling in individual cells and bulk populations.

MCDL Equipment

A list of equipment in the Microbial Cell Dynamics Laboratory follows. Click on a specific piece of equipment to view its detailed information and capabilities.

Flow Cytometry


Cultivation and Processing Equipment

Biofilm Reactors

Filtration/Separation Equipment

Systems Biology at PNNL

Research & Capabilities


Applying Capabilities to Research

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