In 1968, phycologist M.R. Droop published his famous discovery on the functional relationship between growth rate and internal nutrient status of algae in chemostat culture. The simple notion that growth is directly dependent on intracellular nutrient concentration is useful for understanding the dynamics in many ecological systems. The cell quota in particular lends itself to ecological stoichiometry, which is a powerful framework for mathematical ecology. Three models are developed based on the cell quota principal in order to demonstrate its applications beyond chemostat culture.
First, a data-driven model is derived for neutral lipid synthesis in green microalgae with respect to nitrogen limitation. This model synthesizes several established frameworks in phycology and ecological stoichiometry. The model demonstrates how the cell quota is a useful abstraction for understanding the metabolic shift to neutral lipid production that is observed in certain oleaginous species.
Next a producer-grazer model is developed based on the cell quota model and nutrient recycling. The model incorporates a novel feedback loop to account for animal toxicity due to accumulation of nitrogen waste. The model exhibits rich, complex dynamics which leave several open mathematical questions.
Lastly, disease dynamics in vivo are in many ways analogous to those of an ecosystem, giving natural extensions of the cell quota concept to disease modeling. Prostate cancer can be modeled within this framework, with androgen the limiting nutrient and the prostate and cancer cells as competing species. Here the cell quota model provides a useful abstraction for the dependence of cellular proliferation and apoptosis on androgen and the androgen receptor. Androgen ablation therapy is often used for patients in biochemical recurrence or late-stage disease progression and is in general initially effective. However, for many patients the cancer eventually develops resistance months to years after treatment begins. Understanding how and predicting when hormone therapy facilitates evolution of resistant phenotypes has immediate implications for treatment. Cell quota models for prostate cancer can be useful tools for this purpose and motivate applications to other diseases.