The growth of Agrobacterium transformed “hairy root” cultures of Hyoscyamus muticus was examined in various liquid‐ and gas‐dispersed bioreactor configurations. Reactor runs were replicated to provide statistical comparisons of nutrient availability on culture performance. Accumulated tissue mass in submerged air‐sparged reactors was 31% of gyratory shake‐flask controls. Experiments demonstrate that poor performance of sparged reactors is not due to bubble shear damage, carbon dioxide stripping, settling, or flotation of roots. Impaired oxygen transfer due to channeling and stagnation of the liquid phase are the apparent causes of poor growth. Roots grown on a medium‐perfused inclined plane grew at 48% of gyratory controls. This demonstrates the ability of cultures to partially compensate for poor liquid distribution through vascular transport of nutrients. A reactor configuration in which the medium is sprayed over the roots and permitted to drain down through the root tissue was able to provide growth rates which are statistically indistinguishable (95% T‐test) from gyratory shake‐flask controls. In this type of spray/trickle‐bed configuration, it is shown that distribution of the roots becomes a key factor in controlling the rate of growth. Implications of these results regarding design and scale‐up of bioreactors to produce fine chemicals from root cultures are discussed.
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