The dynamics of a marine virus-host system were investigated at different steady state growth rates in chemostat cultures and the data were analyzed using a simple model. The virus-host interactions showed strong dependence on host cell growth rate. The duration of the infection cycle and the virus burst size were found to depend on bacterial growth rate, and the rate of cell lysis and virus production were positively correlated with steady state growth rate in the cultures (r(2) > 0.96, p < 0.05). At bacterial growth rates of 0.02 to 0.10 h(-1) in the chemostats the virus burst size increased from 12 +/- 4 to 56 +/- 4, and the latent period decreased from 2.0 to 1.7 h. Resistant clones of the host strain were present in the cultures from the beginning of the experiment and replaced the sensitive host cells following viral lysis in the cultures. Regrowth of resistant cells correlated significantly (r(2) = 1.000, p < 0.02) with the lysis rate of sensitive cells, indicating that release of viral lysates stimulated growth of the non-infected, resistant cells. The constructed model was suitable for simulating the observed dynamics of the sensitive host cells, viruses and resistant clones in the cultures. The model was therefore used in an attempt to predict the dynamics of this virus-host interaction in a natural marine environment during a certain set of growth conditions. The simulation indicated that a steady state relationship between the specific viruses and sensitive and resistant bacterial clones may occur at densities that are reasonable to assume for natural environments. The study demonstrates that basic characterization and modeling of specific virus-host interactions may improve our understanding of the behavior of bacteria and viruses in natural systems.