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Polymer looping is controlled by macromolecular crowding, spatial confinement, and chain stiffness
(2015)

We study by extensive computer simulations the looping characteristics of linear polymers with varying persistence length inside a spherical cavity in the presence of macromolecular crowding. For stiff chains, the looping probability and looping time reveal wildly oscillating patterns as functions of the chain length. The effects of crowding differ dramatically for flexible versus stiff polymers. While for flexible chains the looping kinetics is slowed down by the crowders, for stiffer chains the kinetics turns out to be either decreased or facilitated, depending on the polymer length. For severe confinement, the looping kinetics may become strongly facilitated by crowding. Our findings are of broad impact for DNA looping in the crowded and compartmentalized interior of living biological cells.

We examine by extensive computer simulations the self-diffusion of anisotropic star-like particles in crowded two-dimensional solutions. We investigate the implications of the area coverage fraction phi of the crowders and the crowder-crowder adhesion properties on the regime of transient anomalous diffusion. We systematically compute the mean squared displacement (MSD) of the particles, their time averaged MSD, and the effective diffusion coefficient. The diffusion is ergodic in the limit of long traces, such that the mean time averaged MSD converges towards the ensemble averaged MSD, and features a small residual amplitude spread of the time averaged MSD from individual trajectories. At intermediate time scales, we quantify the anomalous diffusion in the system. Also, we show that the translational-but not rotational-diffusivity of the particles Dis a nonmonotonic function of the attraction strength between them. Both diffusion coefficients decrease as the power law D(phi) similar to (1 - phi/phi*)(2 ... 2.4) with the area fraction phi occupied by the crowders and the critical value phi*. Our results might be applicable to rationalising the experimental observations of non-Brownian diffusion for a number of standard macromolecular crowders used in vitro to mimic the cytoplasmic conditions of living cells.

The looping of polymers such as DNA is a fundamental process in the molecular biology of living cells, whose interior is characterised by a high degree of molecular crowding. We here investigate in detail the looping dynamics of flexible polymer chains in the presence of different degrees of crowding. From the analysis of the looping-unlooping rates and the looping probabilities of the chain ends we show that the presence of small crowders typically slows down the chain dynamics but larger crowders may in fact facilitate the looping. We rationalise these non-trivial and often counterintuitive effects of the crowder size on the looping kinetics in terms of an effective solution viscosity and standard excluded volume. It is shown that for small crowders the effect of an increased viscosity dominates, while for big crowders we argue that confinement effects (caging) prevail. The tradeoff between both trends can thus result in the impediment or facilitation of polymer looping, depending on the crowder size. We also examine how the crowding volume fraction, chain length, and the attraction strength of the contact groups of the polymer chain affect the looping kinetics and hairpin formation dynamics. Our results are relevant for DNA looping in the absence and presence of protein mediation, DNA hairpin formation, RNA folding, and the folding of polypeptide chains under biologically relevant high-crowding conditions.

We study the dynamics of polymer chains in a bath of self-propelled particles (SPP) by extensive Langevin dynamics simulations in a two-dimensional model system. Specifically, we analyse the polymer looping properties versus the SPP activity and investigate how the presence of the active particles alters the chain conformational statistics. We find that SPPs tend to extend flexible polymer chains, while they rather compactify stiffer semiflexible polymers, in agreement with previous results. Here we show that higher activities of SPPs yield a higher effective temperature of the bath and thus facilitate the looping kinetics of a passive polymer chain. We explicitly compute the looping probability and looping time in a wide range of the model parameters. We also analyse the motion of a monomeric tracer particle and the polymer's centre of mass in the presence of the active particles in terms of the time averaged mean squared displacement, revealing a giant diffusivity enhancement for the polymer chain via SPP pooling. Our results are applicable to rationalising the dimensions and looping kinetics of biopolymers at constantly fluctuating and often actively driven conditions inside biological cells or in suspensions of active colloidal particles or bacteria cells.

We study distributed-order time fractional diffusion equations characterized by multifractal memory kernels, in contrast to the simple power-law kernel of common time fractional diffusion equations. Based on the physical approach to anomalous diffusion provided by the seminal Scher-Montroll-Weiss continuous time random walk, we analyze both natural and modified-form distributed-order time fractional diffusion equations and compare the two approaches. The mean squared displacement is obtained and its limiting behavior analyzed. We derive the connection between the Wiener process, described by the conventional Langevin equation and the dynamics encoded by the distributed-order time fractional diffusion equation in terms of a generalized subordination of time. A detailed analysis of the multifractal properties of distributed-order diffusion equations is provided.

We consider anomalous stochastic processes based on the renewal continuous time random walk model with different forms for the probability density of waiting times between individual jumps. In the corresponding continuum limit we derive the generalized diffusion and Fokker-Planck-Smoluchowski equations with the corresponding memory kernels. We calculate the qth order moments in the unbiased and biased cases, and demonstrate that the generalized Einstein relation for the considered dynamics remains valid. The relaxation of modes in the case of an external harmonic potential and the convergence of the mean squared displacement to the thermal plateau are analyzed.

We examine the non-ergodic properties of scaled Brownian motion (SBM), a non-stationary stochastic process with a time dependent diffusivity of the form D(t) similar or equal to t(alpha-1). We compute the ergodicity breaking parameter EB in the entire range of scaling exponents a, both analytically and via extensive computer simulations of the stochastic Langevin equation. We demonstrate that in the limit of long trajectory lengths T and short lag times Delta the EB parameter as function of the scaling exponent a has no divergence at alpha - 1/2 and present the asymptotes for EB in different limits. We generalize the analytical and simulations results for the time averaged and ergodic properties of SBM in the presence of ageing, that is, when the observation of the system starts only a finite time span after its initiation. The approach developed here for the calculation of the higher time averaged moments of the particle displacement can be applied to derive the ergodic properties of other stochastic processes such as fractional Brownian motion.

Aging scaled Brownian motion
(2015)

Scaled Brownian motion (SBM) is widely used to model anomalous diffusion of passive tracers in complex and biological systems. It is a highly nonstationary process governed by the Langevin equation for Brownian motion, however, with a power-law time dependence of the noise strength. Here we study the aging properties of SBM for both unconfined and confined motion. Specifically, we derive the ensemble and time averaged mean squared displacements and analyze their behavior in the regimes of weak, intermediate, and strong aging. A very rich behavior is revealed for confined aging SBM depending on different aging times and whether the process is sub- or superdiffusive. We demonstrate that the information on the aging factorizes with respect to the lag time and exhibits a functional form that is identical to the aging behavior of scale-free continuous time random walk processes. While SBM exhibits a disparity between ensemble and time averaged observables and is thus weakly nonergodic, strong aging is shown to effect a convergence of the ensemble and time averaged mean squared displacement. Finally, we derive the density of first passage times in the semi-infinite domain that features a crossover defined by the aging time.

Acanthamoebae are free-living protists and human pathogens, whose cellular functions and pathogenicity strongly depend on the transport of intracellular vesicles and granules through the cytosol. Using high-speed live cell imaging in combination with single-particle tracking analysis, we show here that the motion of endogenous intracellular particles in the size range from a few hundred nanometers to several micrometers in Acanthamoeba castellanii is strongly superdiffusive and influenced by cell locomotion, cytoskeletal elements, and myosin II. We demonstrate that cell locomotion significantly contributes to intracellular particle motion, but is clearly not the only origin of superdiffusivity. By analyzing the contribution of microtubules, actin, and myosin II motors we show that myosin II is a major driving force of intracellular motion in A. castellanii. The cytoplasm of A. castellanii is supercrowded with intracellular vesicles and granules, such that significant intracellular motion can only be achieved by actively driven motion, while purely thermally driven diffusion is negligible.

Many chemical reactions in biological cells occur at very low concentrations of constituent molecules. Thus, transcriptional gene-regulation is often controlled by poorly expressed transcription-factors, such as E.coli lac repressor with few tens of copies. Here we study the effects of inherent concentration fluctuations of substrate-molecules on the seminal Michaelis-Menten scheme of biochemical reactions. We present a universal correction to the Michaelis-Menten equation for the reaction-rates. The relevance and validity of this correction for enzymatic reactions and intracellular gene-regulation is demonstrated. Our analytical theory and simulation results confirm that the proposed variance-corrected Michaelis-Menten equation predicts the rate of reactions with remarkable accuracy even in the presence of large non-equilibrium concentration fluctuations. The major advantage of our approach is that it involves only the mean and variance of the substrate-molecule concentration. Our theory is therefore accessible to experiments and not specific to the exact source of the concentration fluctuations.