An estimate of the lag phase duration is an important component for predicting the growth of a bacterium and for creating process models and risk assessments. Most current research and data for predictive modeling programs initiated growth studies with cells grown to the stationary phase in a favorable pH, nutrient and temperature environment. In this work, Listeria monocytogenes Scott A cells were grown in brain heart infusion (BHI) broth at different temperatures from 4 to 37 degrees C to the exponential growth or stationary phases. Additional cells were suspended in a dilute broth, desiccated or frozen. These cells were then transferred to BHI broth at various temperatures from 4 to 37 degrees C and the lag phase durations were determined by enumerating cells at appropriate time intervals. Long lag phases were observed for cells initially grown at high temperatures and transferred to low temperatures. In general, exponential growth cells had the shortest lag phases, stationary phase and starved cells had longer, frozen cells had slightly longer and desiccated cells had the longest lag phases. These data were from immediate temperature transitions. When a computer-controlled water bath linearly changed the temperature from 37 to 5 degrees C over a 3.0- or 6.0-h period, the cells had short lags and grew continuously with declining growth rates. Transitions of 0.75 or 1.0 h had 20-h lag phases, essentially that of immediate transitions. When the transition was 1.5 h, an intermediate pattern of less than 1 log of growth followed by no additional growth for 20 h occurred.