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#### Institute

We show that the codifference is a useful tool in studying the ergodicity breaking and non-Gaussianity properties of stochastic time series. While the codifference is a measure of dependence that was previously studied mainly in the context of stable processes, we here extend its range of applicability to random-parameter and diffusing-diffusivity models which are important in contemporary physics, biology and financial engineering. We prove that the codifference detects forms of dependence and ergodicity breaking which are not visible from analysing the covariance and correlation functions. We also discuss a related measure of dispersion, which is a nonlinear analogue of the mean squared displacement.

Astandard approach to study time-dependent stochastic processes is the power spectral density (PSD), an ensemble-averaged property defined as the Fourier transform of the autocorrelation function of the process in the asymptotic limit of long observation times, T → ∞. In many experimental situations one is able to garner only relatively few stochastic time series of finite T, such that practically neither an ensemble average nor the asymptotic limit T → ∞ can be achieved. To accommodate for a meaningful analysis of such finite-length data we here develop the framework of single-trajectory spectral analysis for one of the standard models of anomalous diffusion, scaled Brownian motion.Wedemonstrate that the frequency dependence of the single-trajectory PSD is exactly the same as for standard Brownian motion, which may lead one to the erroneous conclusion that the observed motion is normal-diffusive. However, a distinctive feature is shown to be provided by the explicit dependence on the measurement time T, and this ageing phenomenon can be used to deduce the anomalous diffusion exponent.Wealso compare our results to the single-trajectory PSD behaviour of another standard anomalous diffusion process, fractional Brownian motion, and work out the commonalities and differences. Our results represent an important step in establishing singletrajectory PSDs as an alternative (or complement) to analyses based on the time-averaged mean squared displacement.

Textbook concepts of diffusion-versus kinetic-control are well-defined for reaction-kinetics involving macroscopic concentrations of diffusive reactants that are adequately described by rate-constants—the inverse of the mean-first-passage-time to the reaction-event. In contradiction, an open important question is whether the mean-first-passage-time alone is a sufficient measure for biochemical reactions that involve nanomolar reactant concentrations. Here, using a simple yet generic, exactly solvable model we study the effect of diffusion and chemical reaction-limitations on the full reaction-time distribution. We show that it has a complex structure with four distinct regimes delineated by three characteristic time scales spanning a window of several decades. Consequently, the reaction-times are defocused: no unique time-scale characterises the reaction-process, diffusion- and kinetic-control can no longer be disentangled, and it is imperative to know the full reaction-time distribution. We introduce the concepts of geometry- and reaction-control, and also quantify each regime by calculating the corresponding reaction depth.

Abstract
The emerging diffusive dynamics in many complex systems show a characteristic crossover behaviour from anomalous to normal diffusion which is otherwise fitted by two independent power-laws. A prominent example for a subdiffusive–diffusive crossover are viscoelastic systems such as lipid bilayer membranes, while superdiffusive–diffusive crossovers occur in systems of actively moving biological cells. We here consider the general dynamics of a stochastic particle driven by so-called tempered fractional Gaussian noise, that is noise with Gaussian amplitude and power-law correlations, which are cut off at some mesoscopic time scale. Concretely we consider such noise with built-in exponential or power-law tempering, driving an overdamped Langevin equation (fractional Brownian motion) and fractional Langevin equation motion. We derive explicit expressions for the mean squared displacement and correlation functions, including different shapes of the crossover behaviour depending on the concrete tempering, and discuss the physical meaning of the tempering. In the case of power-law tempering we also find a crossover behaviour from faster to slower superdiffusion and slower to faster subdiffusion. As a direct application of our model we demonstrate that the obtained dynamics quantitatively describes the subdiffusion–diffusion and subdiffusion–subdiffusion crossover in lipid bilayer systems. We also show that a model of tempered fractional Brownian motion recently proposed by Sabzikar and Meerschaert leads to physically very different behaviour with a seemingly paradoxical ballistic long time scaling.

Many studies on biological and soft matter systems report the joint presence of a linear mean-squared displacement and a non-Gaussian probability density exhibiting, for instance, exponential or stretched-Gaussian tails. This phenomenon is ascribed to the heterogeneity of the medium and is captured by random parameter models such as ‘superstatistics’ or ‘diffusing diffusivity’. Independently, scientists working in the area of time series analysis and statistics have studied a class of discrete-time processes with similar properties, namely, random coefficient autoregressive models. In this work we try to reconcile these two approaches and thus provide a bridge between physical stochastic processes and autoregressive models.Westart from the basic Langevin equation of motion with time-varying damping or diffusion coefficients and establish the link to random coefficient autoregressive processes. By exploring that link we gain access to efficient statistical methods which can help to identify data exhibiting Brownian yet non-Gaussian diffusion.

Quorum-sensing bacteria in a growing colony of cells send out signalling molecules (so-called “autoinducers”) and themselves sense the autoinducer concentration in their vicinity. Once—due to increased local cell density inside a “cluster” of the growing colony—the concentration of autoinducers exceeds a threshold value, cells in this clusters get “induced” into a communal, multi-cell biofilm-forming mode in a cluster-wide burst event. We analyse quantitatively the influence of spatial disorder, the local heterogeneity of the spatial distribution of cells in the colony, and additional physical parameters such as the autoinducer signal range on the induction dynamics of the cell colony. Spatial inhomogeneity with higher local cell concentrations in clusters leads to earlier but more localised induction events, while homogeneous distributions lead to comparatively delayed but more concerted induction of the cell colony, and, thus, a behaviour close to the mean-field dynamics. We quantify the induction dynamics with quantifiers such as the time series of induction events and burst sizes, the grouping into induction families, and the mean autoinducer concentration levels. Consequences for different scenarios of biofilm growth are discussed, providing possible cues for biofilm control in both health care and biotechnology.

Fractional Brownian motion (FBM) is a Gaussian stochastic process with stationary, long-time correlated increments and is frequently used to model anomalous diffusion processes. We study numerically FBM confined to a finite interval with reflecting boundary conditions. The probability density function of this reflected FBM at long times converges to a stationary distribution showing distinct deviations from the fully flat distribution of amplitude 1/L in an interval of length L found for reflected normal Brownian motion. While for superdiffusion, corresponding to a mean squared displacement (MSD) 〈X² (t)〉 ⋍ tᵅ with 1 < α < 2, the probability density function is lowered in the centre of the interval and rises towards the boundaries, for subdiffusion (0 < α < 1) this behaviour is reversed and the particle density is depleted close to the boundaries. The MSD in these cases at long times converges to a stationary value, which is, remarkably, monotonically increasing with the anomalous diffusion exponent α. Our a priori surprising results may have interesting consequences for the application of FBM for processes such as molecule or tracer diffusion in the confines of living biological cells or organelles, or other viscoelastic environments such as dense liquids in microfluidic chambers.

For both Lévy flight and Lévy walk search processes we analyse the full distribution of first-passage and first-hitting (or first-arrival) times. These are, respectively, the times when the particle moves across a point at some given distance from its initial position for the first time, or when it lands at a given point for the first time. For Lévy motions with their propensity for long relocation events and thus the possibility to jump across a given point in space without actually hitting it ('leapovers'), these two definitions lead to significantly different results. We study the first-passage and first-hitting time distributions as functions of the Lévy stable index, highlighting the different behaviour for the cases when the first absolute moment of the jump length distribution is finite or infinite. In particular we examine the limits of short and long times. Our results will find their application in the mathematical modelling of random search processes as well as computer algorithms.

In the scenario of the narrow escape problem (NEP) a particle diffuses in a finite container and eventually leaves it through a small 'escape window' in the otherwise impermeable boundary, once it arrives to this window and crosses an entropic barrier at the entrance to it. This generic problem is mathematically identical to that of a diffusion-mediated reaction with a partially-reactive site on the container's boundary. Considerable knowledge is available on the dependence of the mean first-reaction time (FRT) on the pertinent parameters. We here go a distinct step further and derive the full FRT distribution for the NEP. We demonstrate that typical FRTs may be orders of magnitude shorter than the mean one, thus resulting in a strong defocusing of characteristic temporal scales. We unveil the geometry-control of the typical times, emphasising the role of the initial distance to the target as a decisive parameter. A crucial finding is the further FRT defocusing due to the barrier, necessitating repeated escape or reaction attempts interspersed with bulk excursions. These results add new perspectives and offer a broad comprehension of various features of the by-now classical NEP that are relevant for numerous biological and technological systems.

The power spectral density (PSD) of any time-dependent stochastic processX (t) is ameaningful feature of its spectral content. In its text-book definition, the PSD is the Fourier transform of the covariance function of X-t over an infinitely large observation timeT, that is, it is defined as an ensemble-averaged property taken in the limitT -> infinity. Alegitimate question is what information on the PSD can be reliably obtained from single-trajectory experiments, if one goes beyond the standard definition and analyzes the PSD of a single trajectory recorded for a finite observation timeT. In quest for this answer, for a d-dimensional Brownian motion (BM) we calculate the probability density function of a single-trajectory PSD for arbitrary frequency f, finite observation time T and arbitrary number k of projections of the trajectory on different axes. We show analytically that the scaling exponent for the frequency-dependence of the PSD specific to an ensemble of BM trajectories can be already obtained from a single trajectory, while the numerical amplitude in the relation between the ensemble-averaged and single-trajectory PSDs is afluctuating property which varies from realization to realization. The distribution of this amplitude is calculated exactly and is discussed in detail. Our results are confirmed by numerical simulations and single-particle tracking experiments, with remarkably good agreement. In addition we consider a truncated Wiener representation of BM, and the case of a discrete-time lattice random walk. We highlight some differences in the behavior of a single-trajectory PSD for BM and for the two latter situations. The framework developed herein will allow for meaningful physical analysis of experimental stochastic trajectories.

Recent advances in single particle tracking and supercomputing techniques demonstrate the emergence of normal or anomalous, viscoelastic diffusion in conjunction with non-Gaussian distributions in soft, biological, and active matter systems. We here formulate a stochastic model based on a generalised Langevin equation in which non-Gaussian shapes of the probability density function and normal or anomalous diffusion have a common origin, namely a random parametrisation of the stochastic force. We perform a detailed analysis demonstrating how various types of parameter distributions for the memory kernel result in exponential, power law, or power-log law tails of the memory functions. The studied system is also shown to exhibit a further unusual property: the velocity has a Gaussian one point probability density but non-Gaussian joint distributions. This behaviour is reflected in the relaxation from a Gaussian to a non-Gaussian distribution observed for the position variable. We show that our theoretical results are in excellent agreement with stochastic simulations.

Brownian yet non-Gaussian dynamics was observed. These are processes characterised by a linear growth in time of the mean squared displacement, yet the probability density function of the particle displacement is distinctly non-Gaussian, and often of exponential(Laplace) shape. This apparently ubiquitous behaviour observed in very different physical systems has been interpreted as resulting from diffusion in inhomogeneous environments and mathematically represented through a variable, stochastic diffusion coefficient. Indeed different models describing a fluctuating diffusivity have been studied. Here we present a new view of the stochastic basis describing time dependent random diffusivities within a broad spectrum of distributions. Concretely, our study is based on the very generic class of the generalised Gamma distribution. Two models for the particle spreading in such random diffusivity settings are studied. The first belongs to the class of generalised grey Brownian motion while the second follows from the idea of diffusing diffusivities. The two processes exhibit significant characteristics which reproduce experimental results from different biological and physical systems. We promote these two physical models for the description of stochastic particle motion in complex environments.

A considerable number of systems have recently been reported in which
Brownian yet non-Gaussian dynamics was observed. These are processes characterised by a linear growth in time of the mean squared displacement, yet the probability density function of the particle displacement is distinctly non-Gaussian, and often of exponential(Laplace) shape. This apparently ubiquitous behaviour observed in very different physical systems has been interpreted as resulting from diffusion in inhomogeneous environments and mathematically represented through a variable, stochastic diffusion coefficient. Indeed different models describing a fluctuating diffusivity have been studied. Here we present a new view of the stochastic basis describing time dependent random diffusivities within a broad spectrum of distributions. Concretely, our study is based on the very generic class of the generalised Gamma distribution. Two models for the particle spreading in such random diffusivity settings are studied. The first belongs to the class of generalised grey Brownian motion while the second follows from the idea of diffusing diffusivities. The two processes exhibit significant characteristics which reproduce experimental results from different biological and physical systems. We promote these two physical models for the description of stochastic particle motion in complex environments.

We introduce three strategies for the analysis of financial time series based on time averaged observables. These comprise the time averaged mean squared displacement (MSD) as well as the ageing and delay time methods for varying fractions of the financial time series. We explore these concepts via statistical analysis of historic time series for several Dow Jones Industrial indices for the period from the 1960s to 2015. Remarkably, we discover a simple universal law for the delay time averaged MSD. The observed features of the financial time series dynamics agree well with our analytical results for the time averaged measurables for geometric Brownian motion, underlying the famed Black–Scholes–Merton model. The concepts we promote here are shown to be useful for financial data analysis and enable one to unveil new universal features of stock market dynamics.

Anomalous diffusion is being discovered in a fast growing number of systems. The exact nature of this anomalous diffusion provides important information on the physical laws governing the studied system. One of the central properties analysed for finite particle motion time series is the intrinsic variability of the apparent diffusivity, typically quantified by the ergodicity breaking parameter EB. Here we demonstrate that frequently EB is insufficient to provide a meaningful measure for the observed variability of the data. Instead, important additional information is provided by the higher order moments entering by the skewness and kurtosis. We analyse these quantities for three popular anomalous diffusion models. In particular, we find that even for the Gaussian fractional Brownian motion a significant skewness in the results of physical measurements occurs and needs to be taken into account. Interestingly, the kurtosis and skewness may also provide sensitive estimates of the anomalous diffusion exponent underlying the data. We also derive a new result for the EB parameter of fractional Brownian motion valid for the whole range of the anomalous diffusion parameter. Our results are important for the analysis of anomalous diffusion but also provide new insights into the theory of anomalous stochastic processes.

Fixational eye movements show scaling behaviour of the positional mean-squared displacement with a characteristic transition from persistence to antipersistence for increasing time-lag. These statistical patterns were found to be mainly shaped by microsaccades (fast, small-amplitude movements). However, our re-analysis of fixational eye-movement data provides evidence that the slow component (physiological drift) of the eyes exhibits scaling behaviour of the mean-squared displacement that varies across human participants. These results suggest that drift is a correlated movement that interacts with microsaccades. Moreover, on the long time scale, the mean-squared displacement of the drift shows oscillations, which is also present in the displacement auto-correlation function. This finding lends support to the presence of time-delayed feedback in the control of drift movements. Based on an earlier non-linear delayed feedback model of fixational eye movements, we propose and discuss different versions of a new model that combines a self-avoiding walk with time delay. As a result, we identify a model that reproduces oscillatory correlation functions, the transition from persistence to antipersistence, and microsaccades.

Effects of the target aspect ratio and intrinsic reactivity onto diffusive search in bounded domains
(2017)

We study the mean first passage time (MFPT) to a reaction event on a specific site in a cylindrical geometry—characteristic, for instance, for bacterial cells, with a concentric inner cylinder representing the nuclear region of the bacterial cell. Asimilar problem emerges in the description of a diffusive search by a transcription factor protein for a specific binding region on a single strand of DNA.We develop a unified theoretical approach to study the underlying boundary value problem which is based on a self-consistent approximation of the mixed boundary condition. Our approach permits us to derive explicit, novel, closed-form expressions for the MFPT valid for a generic setting with an arbitrary relation between the system parameters.Weanalyse this general result in the asymptotic limits appropriate for the above-mentioned biophysical problems. Our investigation reveals the crucial role of the target aspect ratio and of the intrinsic reactivity of the binding region, which were disregarded in previous studies. Theoretical predictions are confirmed by numerical simulations.

Effects of the target aspect ratio and intrinsic reactivity onto diffusive search in bounded domains
(2017)

Westudy the mean first passage time (MFPT) to a reaction event on a specific site in a cylindrical geometry—characteristic, for instance, for bacterial cells, with a concentric inner cylinder representing the nuclear region of the bacterial cell. Asimilar problem emerges in the description of a diffusive search by a transcription factor protein for a specific binding region on a single strand of DNA.We develop a unified theoretical approach to study the underlying boundary value problem which is based on a self-consistent approximation of the mixed boundary condition. Our approach permits us to derive explicit, novel, closed-form expressions for the MFPT valid for a generic setting with an arbitrary relation between the system parameters.Weanalyse this general result in the asymptotic limits appropriate for the above-mentioned biophysical problems. Our investigation reveals the crucial role of the target aspect ratio and of the intrinsic reactivity of the binding region, which were disregarded in previous studies. Theoretical predictions are confirmed by numerical simulations.

We study the adsorption–desorption transition of polyelectrolyte chains onto planar, cylindrical and spherical surfaces with arbitrarily high surface charge densities by massive Monte Carlo computer simulations. We examine in detail how the well known scaling relations for the threshold transition—demarcating the adsorbed and desorbed domains of a polyelectrolyte near weakly charged surfaces—are altered for highly charged interfaces. In virtue of high surface potentials and large surface charge densities, the Debye–Hückel approximation is often not feasible and the nonlinear Poisson–Boltzmann approach should be implemented. At low salt conditions, for instance, the electrostatic potential from the nonlinear Poisson–Boltzmann equation is smaller than the Debye–Hückel result, such that the required critical surface charge density for polyelectrolyte adsorption σc increases. The nonlinear relation between the surface charge density and electrostatic potential leads to a sharply increasing critical surface charge density with growing ionic strength, imposing an additional limit to the critical salt concentration above which no polyelectrolyte adsorption occurs at all. We contrast our simulations findings with the known scaling results for weak critical polyelectrolyte adsorption onto oppositely charged surfaces for the three standard geometries. Finally, we discuss some applications of our results for some physical–chemical and biophysical systems.

It is quite generally assumed that the overdamped Langevin equation provides a quantitative description of the dynamics of a classical Brownian particle in the long time limit. We establish and investigate a paradigm anomalous diffusion process governed by an underdamped Langevin equation with an explicit time dependence of the system temperature and thus the diffusion and damping coefficients. We show that for this underdamped scaled Brownian motion (UDSBM) the overdamped limit fails to describe the long time behaviour of the system and may practically even not exist at all for a certain range of the parameter values. Thus persistent inertial effects play a non-negligible role even at significantly long times. From this study a general questions on the applicability of the overdamped limit to describe the long time motion of an anomalously diffusing particle arises, with profound consequences for the relevance of overdamped anomalous diffusion models. We elucidate our results in view of analytical and simulations results for the anomalous diffusion of particles in free cooling granular gases.

We investigate the ensemble and time averaged mean squared displacements for particle diffusion in a simple model for disordered media by assuming that the local diffusivity is both fluctuating in time and has a deterministic average growth or decay in time. In this study we compare computer simulations of the stochastic Langevin equation for this random diffusion process with analytical results. We explore the regimes of normal Brownian motion as well as anomalous diffusion in the sub- and superdiffusive regimes. We also consider effects of the inertial term on the particle motion. The investigation of the resulting diffusion is performed for unconfined and confined motion.

What are the physical laws of the mutual interactions of objects bound to cell membranes, such as various membrane proteins or elongated virus particles? To rationalise this, we here investigate by extensive computer simulations mutual interactions of rod-like particles adsorbed on the surface of responsive elastic two-dimensional sheets. Specifically, we quantify sheet deformations as a response to adhesion of such filamentous particles. We demonstrate that tip-to-tip contacts of rods are favoured for relatively soft sheets, while side-by-side contacts are preferred for stiffer elastic substrates. These attractive orientation-dependent substrate-mediated interactions between the rod-like particles on responsive sheets can drive their aggregation and self-assembly. The optimal orientation of the membrane-bound rods is established via responding to the elastic energy profiles created around the particles. We unveil the phase diagramme of attractive–repulsive rod–rod interactions in the plane of their separation and mutual orientation. Applications of our results to other systems featuring membrane-associated particles are also discussed.

Brownianmotion is ergodic in the Boltzmann–Khinchin sense that long time averages of physical observables such as the mean squared displacement provide the same information as the corresponding ensemble average, even at out-of-equilibrium conditions. This property is the fundamental prerequisite for single particle tracking and its analysis in simple liquids. We study analytically and by event-driven molecular dynamics simulations the dynamics of force-free cooling granular gases and reveal a violation of ergodicity in this Boltzmann–
Khinchin sense as well as distinct ageing of the system. Such granular gases comprise materials such as dilute gases of stones, sand, various types of powders, or large molecules, and their mixtures are ubiquitous in Nature and technology, in particular in Space. We treat—depending on the physical-chemical properties of the inter-particle interaction upon their pair collisions—both a constant and a velocity-dependent (viscoelastic) restitution coefficient e. Moreover we compare the granular gas dynamics with an effective single particle stochastic model based on an underdamped Langevin equation with time dependent diffusivity. We find that both models share the same behaviour of the ensemble mean squared displacement (MSD) and the velocity correlations in the limit of weak dissipation. Qualitatively, the reported non-ergodic behaviour is generic for granular gases with any realistic dependence of e on the impact velocity of particles.

Brownianmotion is ergodic in the Boltzmann–Khinchin sense that long time averages of physical observables such as the mean squared displacement provide the same information as the corresponding ensemble average, even at out-of-equilibrium conditions. This property is the fundamental prerequisite for single particle tracking and its analysis in simple liquids. We study analytically and by event-driven molecular dynamics simulations the dynamics of force-free cooling granular gases and reveal a violation of ergodicity in this Boltzmann-Khinchin sense as well as distinct ageing of the system. Such granular gases comprise materials such as dilute gases of stones, sand, various types of powders, or large molecules, and their mixtures are ubiquitous in Nature and technology, in particular in Space. We treat—depending on the physical-chemical properties of the inter-particle interaction upon their pair collisions—both a constant and a velocity-dependent
(viscoelastic) restitution coefficient e. Moreover we compare the granular gas dynamics with an effective single particle stochastic model based on an underdamped Langevin equation with time dependent diffusivity. We find that both models share the same behaviour of the ensemble mean squared displacement (MSD) and the velocity correlations in the limit of weak dissipation. Qualitatively, the reported non-ergodic behaviour is generic for granular gases with any realistic dependence of e on the impact velocity of particles.

We investigate the ergodic properties of a random walker performing (anomalous) diffusion on a random fractal geometry. Extensive Monte Carlo simulations of the motion of tracer particles on an ensemble of realisations of percolation clusters are performed for a wide range of percolation densities. Single trajectories of the tracer motion are analysed to quantify the time averaged mean squared displacement (MSD) and to compare this with the ensemble averaged MSD of the particle motion. Other complementary physical observables associated with ergodicity are studied, as well. It turns out that the time averaged MSD of individual realisations exhibits non-vanishing fluctuations even in the limit of very long observation times as the percolation density approaches the critical value. This apparent non-ergodic behaviour concurs with the ergodic behaviour on the ensemble averaged level. We demonstrate how the non-vanishing fluctuations in single particle trajectories are analytically expressed in terms of the fractal dimension and the cluster size distribution of the random geometry, thus being of
purely geometrical origin. Moreover, we reveal that the convergence scaling law to ergodicity, which is known to be inversely proportional to the observation time T for ergodic diffusion processes, follows a power-law BTh with h o 1 due to the fractal structure of the accessible space. These results provide useful measures for differentiating the subdiffusion on random fractals from an otherwise closely related process, namely, fractional Brownian motion. Implications of our results on the analysis of single particle tracking experiments are provided.

We investigate the ergodic properties of a random walker performing (anomalous) diffusion on a random fractal geometry. Extensive Monte Carlo simulations of the motion of tracer particles on an ensemble of realisations of percolation clusters are performed for a wide range of percolation densities. Single trajectories of the tracer motion are analysed to quantify the time averaged mean squared displacement (MSD) and to compare this with the ensemble averaged MSD of the particle motion. Other complementary physical observables associated with ergodicity are studied, as well. It turns out that the time averaged MSD of individual realisations exhibits non-vanishing fluctuations even in the limit of very long observation times as the percolation density approaches the critical value. This apparent non-ergodic behaviour concurs with the ergodic behaviour on the ensemble averaged level. We demonstrate how the non-vanishing fluctuations in single particle trajectories are analytically expressed in terms of the fractal dimension and the cluster size distribution of the random geometry, thus being of
purely geometrical origin. Moreover, we reveal that the convergence scaling law to ergodicity, which is known to be inversely proportional to the observation time T for ergodic diffusion processes, follows a power-law BT� h with h o 1 due to the fractal structure of the accessible space. These results provide useful measures for differentiating the subdiffusion on random fractals from an otherwise closely related process, namely, fractional Brownian motion. Implications of our results on the analysis of single particle tracking experiments are provided.

What are the fundamental laws for the adsorption of charged polymers onto oppositely charged surfaces, for convex, planar, and concave geometries? This question is at the heart of surface coating applications, various complex formation phenomena, as well as in the context of cellular and viral biophysics. It has been a long-standing challenge in theoretical polymer physics; for realistic systems the quantitative understanding is however often achievable only by computer simulations. In this study, we present the findings of such extensive Monte-Carlo in silico experiments for polymer–surface adsorption in confined domains. We study the inverted critical adsorption of finite-length polyelectrolytes in three fundamental geometries: planar slit, cylindrical pore, and spherical cavity. The scaling relations extracted from simulations for the critical surface charge density sc—defining the adsorption–desorption transition—are in excellent agreement with our analytical calculations based on the ground-state analysis of the Edwards equation. In particular, we confirm the magnitude and scaling of sc for the concave interfaces versus the Debye screening length 1/k and the extent of confinement a for these three interfaces for small ka values. For large ka the critical adsorption condition approaches the known planar limit. The transition between the two regimes takes place when the radius of surface curvature or half of the slit thickness a is of the order of 1/k. We also rationalize how sc(k) dependence gets modified for semi-flexible versus flexible chains under external confinement. We examine the implications of the chain length for critical adsorption—the effect often hard to tackle theoretically—putting an emphasis on polymers inside attractive spherical cavities. The applications of our findings to some biological systems are discussed, for instance the adsorption of nucleic acids onto the inner surfaces of cylindrical and spherical viral capsids.

We study the diffusion of a tracer particle, which moves in continuum space between a lattice of excluded volume, immobile non-inert obstacles. In particular, we analyse how the strength of the tracer-obstacle interactions and the volume occupancy of the crowders alter the diffusive motion of the tracer. From the details of partitioning of the tracer diffusion modes between trapping states when bound to obstacles and bulk diffusion, we examine the degree of localisation of the tracer in the lattice of crowders. We study the properties of the tracer diffusion in terms of the ensemble and time averaged mean squared displacements, the trapping time distributions, the amplitude variation of the time averaged mean squared displacements, and the non-Gaussianity parameter of the diffusing tracer. We conclude that tracer-obstacle adsorption and binding triggers a transient anomalous diffusion. From a very narrow spread of recorded individual time averaged trajectories we exclude continuous type random walk processes as the underlying physical model of the tracer diffusion in our system. For moderate tracer-crowder attraction the motion is found to be fully ergodic, while at stronger attraction strength a transient disparity between ensemble and time averaged mean squared displacements occurs. We also put our results into perspective with findings from experimental single-particle tracking and simulations of the diffusion of tagged tracers in dense crowded suspensions. Our results have implications for the diffusion, transport, and spreading of chemical components in highly crowded environments inside living cells and other structured liquids.

We define and study in detail utraslow scaled Brownian motion (USBM) characterized by a time dependent diffusion coefficient of the form . For unconfined motion the mean squared displacement (MSD) of USBM exhibits an ultraslow, logarithmic growth as function of time, in contrast to the conventional scaled Brownian motion. In a harmonic potential the MSD of USBM does not saturate but asymptotically decays inverse-proportionally to time, reflecting the highly non-stationary character of the process. We show that the process is weakly non-ergodic in the sense that the time averaged MSD does not converge to the regular MSD even at long times, and for unconfined motion combines a linear lag time dependence with a logarithmic term. The weakly non-ergodic behaviour is quantified in terms of the ergodicity breaking parameter. The USBM process is also shown to be ageing: observables of the system depend on the time gap between initiation of the test particle and start of the measurement of its motion. Our analytical results are shown to agree excellently with extensive computer simulations.

Multiple loop formation in polymer macromolecules is an important feature of the chromatin organization and DNA compactification in the nuclei. We analyse the size and shape characteristics of complex polymer structures, containing in general f(1) loops (petals) and f(2) linear chains (branches). Within the frames of continuous model of Gaussian macromolecule, we apply the path integration method and obtain the estimates for gyration radius R-g and asphericity (A) over cap of typical conformation as functions of parameters f(1), f(2). In particular, our results qualitatively reveal the extent of anisotropy of star-like topologies as compared to the rosette structures of the same total molecular weight.

Recent experiments show that transcription factors (TFs) indeed use the facilitated diffusion mechanism to locate their target sequences on DNA in living bacteria cells: TFs alternate between sliding motion along DNA and relocation events through the cytoplasm. From simulations and theoretical analysis we study the TF-sliding motion for a large section of the DNA-sequence of a common E. coli strain, based on the two-state TF-model with a fast-sliding search state and a recognition state enabling target detection. For the probability to detect the target before dissociating from DNA the TF-search times self-consistently depend heavily on whether or not an auxiliary operator (an accessible sequence similar to the main operator) is present in the genome section. Importantly, within our model the extent to which the interconversion rates between search and recognition states depend on the underlying nucleotide sequence is varied. A moderate dependence maximises the capability to distinguish between the main operator and similar sequences. Moreover, these auxiliary operators serve as starting points for DNA looping with the main operator, yielding a spectrum of target detection times spanning several orders of magnitude. Auxiliary operators are shown to act as funnels facilitating target detection by TFs.

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.

Optimization and universality of Brownian search in a basic model of quenched heterogeneous media
(2015)

The kinetics of a variety of transport-controlled processes can be reduced to the problem of determining the mean time needed to arrive at a given location for the first time, the so-called mean first-passage time ( MFPT) problem. The occurrence of occasional large jumps or intermittent patterns combining various types of motion are known to outperform the standard random walk with respect to the MFPT, by reducing oversampling of space. Here we show that a regular but spatially heterogeneous random walk can significantly and universally enhance the search in any spatial dimension. In a generic minimal model we consider a spherically symmetric system comprising two concentric regions with piecewise constant diffusivity. The MFPT is analyzed under the constraint of conserved average dynamics, that is, the spatially averaged diffusivity is kept constant. Our analytical calculations and extensive numerical simulations demonstrate the existence of an optimal heterogeneity minimizing the MFPT to the target. We prove that the MFPT for a random walk is completely dominated by what we term direct trajectories towards the target and reveal a remarkable universality of the spatially heterogeneous search with respect to target size and system dimensionality. In contrast to intermittent strategies, which are most profitable in low spatial dimensions, the spatially inhomogeneous search performs best in higher dimensions. Discussing our results alongside recent experiments on single-particle tracking in living cells, we argue that the observed spatial heterogeneity may be beneficial for cellular signaling processes.

Ageing first passage time density in continuous time random walks and quenched energy landscapes
(2015)

We study the first passage dynamics of an ageing stochastic process in the continuous time random walk (CTRW) framework. In such CTRW processes the test particle performs a random walk, in which successive steps are separated by random waiting times distributed in terms of the waiting time probability density function Psi (t) similar or equal to t(-1-alpha) (0 <= alpha <= 2). An ageing stochastic process is defined by the explicit dependence of its dynamic quantities on the ageing time t(a), the time elapsed between its preparation and the start of the observation. Subdiffusive ageing CTRWs with 0 < alpha < 1 describe systems such as charge carriers in amorphous semiconducters, tracer dispersion in geological and biological systems, or the dynamics of blinking quantum dots. We derive the exact forms of the first passage time density for an ageing subdiffusive CTRW in the semi-infinite, confined, and biased case, finding different scaling regimes for weakly, intermediately, and strongly aged systems: these regimes, with different scaling laws, are also found when the scaling exponent is in the range 1 < alpha < 2, for sufficiently long ta. We compare our results with the ageing motion of a test particle in a quenched energy landscape. We test our theoretical results in the quenched landscape against simulations: only when the bias is strong enough, the correlations from returning to previously visited sites become insignificant and the results approach the ageing CTRW results. With small bias or without bias, the ageing effects disappear and a change in the exponent compared to the case of a completely annealed landscape can be found, reflecting the build-up of correlations in the quenched landscape.

What are the fundamental laws for the adsorption of charged polymers onto oppositely charged surfaces, for convex, planar, and concave geometries? This question is at the heart of surface coating applications, various complex formation phenomena, as well as in the context of cellular and viral biophysics. It has been a long-standing challenge in theoretical polymer physics; for realistic systems the quantitative understanding is however often achievable only by computer simulations. In this study, we present the findings of such extensive Monte-Carlo in silico experiments for polymer-surface adsorption in confined domains. We study the inverted critical adsorption of finite-length polyelectrolytes in three fundamental geometries: planar slit, cylindrical pore, and spherical cavity. The scaling relations extracted from simulations for the critical surface charge density sigma(c)-defining the adsorption-desorption transition-are in excellent agreement with our analytical calculations based on the ground-state analysis of the Edwards equation. In particular, we confirm the magnitude and scaling of sigma(c) for the concave interfaces versus the Debye screening length 1/kappa and the extent of confinement a for these three interfaces for small kappa a values. For large kappa a the critical adsorption condition approaches the known planar limit. The transition between the two regimes takes place when the radius of surface curvature or half of the slit thickness a is of the order of 1/kappa. We also rationalize how sigma(c)(kappa) dependence gets modified for semi-flexible versus flexible chains under external confinement. We examine the implications of the chain length for critical adsorption-the effect often hard to tackle theoretically-putting an emphasis on polymers inside attractive spherical cavities. The applications of our findings to some biological systems are discussed, for instance the adsorption of nucleic acids onto the inner surfaces of cylindrical and spherical viral capsids.

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.

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.

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.

Brownian motion is ergodic in the Boltzmann-Khinchin sense that long time averages of physical observables such as the mean squared displacement provide the same information as the corresponding ensemble average, even at out-of-equilibrium conditions. This property is the fundamental prerequisite for single particle tracking and its analysis in simple liquids. We study analytically and by event-driven molecular dynamics simulations the dynamics of force-free cooling granular gases and reveal a violation of ergodicity in this Boltzmann-Khinchin sense as well as distinct ageing of the system. Such granular gases comprise materials such as dilute gases of stones, sand, various types of powders, or large molecules, and their mixtures are ubiquitous in Nature and technology, in particular in Space. We treat-depending on the physical-chemical properties of the inter-particle interaction upon their pair collisions-both a constant and a velocity-dependent (viscoelastic) restitution coefficient epsilon. Moreover we compare the granular gas dynamics with an effective single particle stochastic model based on an underdamped Langevin equation with time dependent diffusivity. We find that both models share the same behaviour of the ensemble mean squared displacement (MSD) and the velocity correlations in the limit of weak dissipation. Qualitatively, the reported non-ergodic behaviour is generic for granular gases with any realistic dependence of epsilon on the impact velocity of particles.

We study noisy heterogeneous diffusion processes with a position dependent diffusivity of the form D(x) similar to D-0 vertical bar x vertical bar (alpha 0) in the presence of annealed and quenched disorder of the environment, corresponding to an effective variation of the exponent a in time and space. In the case of annealed disorder, for which effectively alpha(0) = alpha(0)(t), we show how the long time scaling of the ensemble mean squared displacement (MSD) and the amplitude variation of individual realizations of the time averaged MSD are affected by the disorder strength. For the case of quenched disorder, the long time behavior becomes effectively Brownian after a number of jumps between the domains of a stratified medium. In the latter situation, the averages are taken over both an ensemble of particles and different realizations of the disorder. As physical observables, we analyze in detail the ensemble and time averaged MSDs, the ergodicity breaking parameter, and higher order moments of the time averages. (C) 2015 AIP Publishing LLC.

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.

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.

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 define and study in detail utraslow scaled Brownian motion (USBM) characterized by a time dependent diffusion coefficient of the form D(t) similar or equal to 1/t. For unconfined motion the mean squared displacement (MSD) of USBM exhibits an ultraslow, logarithmic growth as function of time, in contrast to the conventional scaled Brownian motion. In a harmonic potential the MSD of USBM does not saturate but asymptotically decays inverse-proportionally to time, reflecting the highly non-stationary character of the process. We show that the process is weakly non-ergodic in the sense that the time averaged MSD does not converge to the regular MSD even at long times, and for unconfined motion combines a linear lag time dependence with a logarithmic term. The weakly non-ergodic behaviour is quantified in terms of the ergodicity breaking parameter. The USBM process is also shown to be ageing: observables of the system depend on the time gap between initiation of the test particle and start of the measurement of its motion. Our analytical results are shown to agree excellently with extensive computer simulations.

We study generalized anomalous diffusion processes whose diffusion coefficient D(x, t) similar to D-0x(alpha)t(beta) depends on both the position x of the test particle and the process time t. This process thus combines the features of scaled Brownian motion and heterogeneous diffusion parent processes. We compute the ensemble and time averaged mean squared displacements of this generalized diffusion process. The scaling exponent of the ensemble averaged mean squared displacement is shown to be the product of the critical exponents of the parent processes, and describes both subdiffusive and superdiffusive systems. We quantify the amplitude fluctuations of the time averaged mean squared displacement as function of the length of the time series and the lag time. In particular, we observe a weak ergodicity breaking of this generalized diffusion process: even in the long time limit the ensemble and time averaged mean squared displacements are strictly disparate. When we start to observe this process some time after its initiation we observe distinct features of ageing. We derive a universal ageing factor for the time averaged mean squared displacement containing all information on the ageing time and the measurement time. External confinement is shown to alter the magnitudes and statistics of the ensemble and time averaged mean squared displacements.

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 investigate the ergodic properties of a random walker performing (anomalous) diffusion on a random fractal geometry. Extensive Monte Carlo simulations of the motion of tracer particles on an ensemble of realisations of percolation clusters are performed for a wide range of percolation densities. Single trajectories of the tracer motion are analysed to quantify the time averaged mean squared displacement (MSD) and to compare this with the ensemble averaged MSD of the particle motion. Other complementary physical observables associated with ergodicity are studied, as well. It turns out that the time averaged MSD of individual realisations exhibits non-vanishing fluctuations even in the limit of very long observation times as the percolation density approaches the critical value. This apparent non-ergodic behaviour concurs with the ergodic behaviour on the ensemble averaged level. We demonstrate how the non-vanishing fluctuations in single particle trajectories are analytically expressed in terms of the fractal dimension and the cluster size distribution of the random geometry, thus being of purely geometrical origin. Moreover, we reveal that the convergence scaling law to ergodicity, which is known to be inversely proportional to the observation time T for ergodic diffusion processes, follows a power-law similar to T-h with h < 1 due to the fractal structure of the accessible space. These results provide useful measures for differentiating the subdiffusion on random fractals from an otherwise closely related process, namely, fractional Brownian motion. Implications of our results on the analysis of single particle tracking experiments are provided.

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.

Modern microscopic techniques following the stochastic motion of labelled tracer particles have uncovered significant deviations from the laws of Brownian motion in a variety of animate and inanimate systems. Such anomalous diffusion can have different physical origins, which can be identified from careful data analysis. In particular, single particle tracking provides the entire trajectory of the traced particle, which allows one to evaluate different observables to quantify the dynamics of the system under observation. We here provide an extensive overview over different popular anomalous diffusion models and their properties. We pay special attention to their ergodic properties, highlighting the fact that in several of these models the long time averaged mean squared displacement shows a distinct disparity to the regular, ensemble averaged mean squared displacement. In these cases, data obtained from time averages cannot be interpreted by the standard theoretical results for the ensemble averages. Here we therefore provide a comparison of the main properties of the time averaged mean squared displacement and its statistical behaviour in terms of the scatter of the amplitudes between the time averages obtained from different trajectories. We especially demonstrate how anomalous dynamics may be identified for systems, which, on first sight, appear to be Brownian. Moreover, we discuss the ergodicity breaking parameters for the different anomalous stochastic processes and showcase the physical origins for the various behaviours. This Perspective is intended as a guidebook for both experimentalists and theorists working on systems, which exhibit anomalous diffusion.

Anomalous diffusion is frequently described by scaled Brownian motion (SBM), a Gaussian process with a power-law time dependent diffusion coefficient. Its mean squared displacement is < x(2)(t) similar or equal to 2K(t)t with K(t) similar or equal to t(alpha-1) for 0 < alpha < 2. SBM may provide a seemingly adequate description in the case of unbounded diffusion, for which its probability density function coincides with that of fractional Brownian motion. Here we show that free SBM is weakly non-ergodic but does not exhibit a significant amplitude scatter of the time averaged mean squared displacement. More severely, we demonstrate that under confinement, the dynamics encoded by SBM is fundamentally different from both fractional Brownian motion and continuous time random walks. SBM is highly non-stationary and cannot provide a physical description for particles in a thermalised stationary system. Our findings have direct impact on the modelling of single particle tracking experiments, in particular, under confinement inside cellular compartments or when optical tweezers tracking methods are used.

Diffusion of finite-size particles in two-dimensional channels with random wall configurations
(2014)

Diffusion of chemicals or tracer molecules through complex systems containing irregularly shaped channels is important in many applications. Most theoretical studies based on the famed Fick-Jacobs equation focus on the idealised case of infinitely small particles and reflecting boundaries. In this study we use numerical simulations to consider the transport of finite-size particles through asymmetrical two-dimensional channels. Additionally, we examine transient binding of the molecules to the channel walls by applying sticky boundary conditions. We consider an ensemble of particles diffusing in independent channels, which are characterised by common structural parameters. We compare our results for the long-time effective diffusion coefficient with a recent theoretical formula obtained by Dagdug and Pineda

We study the diffusion of a tracer particle, which moves in continuum space between a lattice of excluded volume, immobile non-inert obstacles. In particular, we analyse how the strength of the tracer–obstacle interactions and the volume occupancy of the crowders alter the diffusive motion of the tracer. From the details of partitioning of the tracer diffusion modes between trapping states when bound to obstacles and bulk diffusion, we examine the degree of localisation of the tracer in the lattice of crowders. We study the properties of the tracer diffusion in terms of the ensemble and time averaged mean squared displacements, the trapping time distributions, the amplitude variation of the time averaged mean squared displacements, and the non-Gaussianity parameter of the diffusing tracer. We conclude that tracer–obstacle adsorption and binding triggers a transient anomalous diffusion. From a very narrow spread of recorded individual time averaged trajectories we exclude continuous type random walk processes as the underlying physical model of the tracer diffusion in our system. For moderate tracer–crowder attraction the motion is found to be fully ergodic, while at stronger attraction strength a transient disparity between ensemble and time averaged mean squared displacements occurs. We also put our results into perspective with findings from experimental single-particle tracking and simulations of the diffusion of tagged tracers in dense crowded suspensions. Our results have implications for the diffusion, transport, and spreading of chemical components in highly crowded environments inside living cells and other structured liquids.

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 thermal Markovian diffusion of tracer particles in a 2D medium with spatially varying diffusivity D(r), mimicking recently measured, heterogeneous maps of the apparent diffusion coefficient in biological cells. For this heterogeneous diffusion process (HDP) we analyse the mean squared displacement (MSD) of the tracer particles, the time averaged MSD, the spatial probability density function, and the first passage time dynamics from the cell boundary to the nucleus. Moreover we examine the non-ergodic properties of this process which are important for the correct physical interpretation of time averages of observables obtained from single particle tracking experiments. From extensive computer simulations of the 2D stochastic Langevin equation we present an in-depth study of this HDP. In particular, we find that the MSDs along the radial and azimuthal directions in a circular domain obey anomalous and Brownian scaling, respectively. We demonstrate that the time averaged MSD stays linear as a function of the lag time and the system thus reveals a weak ergodicity breaking. Our results will enable one to rationalise the diffusive motion of larger tracer particles such as viruses or submicron beads in biological cells.

Based on extensive Monte Carlo simulations and analytical considerations we study the electrostatically driven adsorption of flexible polyelectrolyte chains onto charged Janus nanospheres. These net-neutral colloids are composed of two equally but oppositely charged hemispheres. The critical binding conditions for polyelectrolyte chains are analysed as function of the radius of the Janus particle and its surface charge density, as well as the salt concentration in the ambient solution. Specifically for the adsorption of finite-length polyelectrolyte chains onto Janus nanoparticles, we demonstrate that the critical adsorption conditions drastically differ when the size of the Janus particle or the screening length of the electrolyte are varied. We compare the scaling laws obtained for the adsorption–desorption threshold to the known results for uniformly charged spherical particles, observing significant disparities. We also contrast the changes to the polyelectrolyte chain conformations close to the surface of the Janus nanoparticles as compared to those for simple spherical particles. Finally, we discuss experimentally relevant physico-chemical systems for which our simulations results may become important. In particular, we observe similar trends with polyelectrolyte complexation with oppositely but heterogeneously charged proteins.

We study the parameter sensitivity of hetero-polymeric DNA within the purview of DNA breathing dynamics. The degree of correlation between the mean bubble size and the model parameters is estimated for this purpose for three different DNA sequences. The analysis leads us to a better understanding of the sequence dependent nature of the breathing dynamics of hetero-polymeric DNA. Out of the 14 model parameters for DNA stability in the statistical Poland-Scheraga approach, the hydrogen bond interaction epsilon(hb)(AT) for an AT base pair and the ring factor. turn out to be the most sensitive parameters. In addition, the stacking interaction epsilon(st)(TA-TA) for an TA-TA nearest neighbor pair of base-pairs is found to be the most sensitive one among all stacking interactions. Moreover, we also establish that the nature of stacking interaction has a deciding effect on the DNA breathing dynamics, not the number of times a particular stacking interaction appears in a sequence. We show that the sensitivity analysis can be used as an effective measure to guide a stochastic optimization technique to find the kinetic rate constants related to the dynamics as opposed to the case where the rate constants are measured using the conventional unbiased way of optimization.

The rapid worldwide spread of severe viral infections, often involving novel mutations of viruses, poses major challenges to our health-care systems. This means that tools that can efficiently and specifically diagnose viruses are much needed. To be relevant for broad applications in local health-care centers, such tools should be relatively cheap and easy to use. In this paper, we discuss the biophysical potential for the macroscopic detection of viruses based on the induction of a mechanical stress in a bundle of prestretched DNA molecules upon binding of viruses to the DNA. We show that the affinity of the DNA to the charged virus surface induces a local melting of the double helix into two single-stranded DNA. This process effects a mechanical stress along the DNA chains leading to an overall contraction of the DNA. Our results suggest that when such DNA bundles are incorporated in a supporting matrix such as a responsive hydrogel, the presence of viruses may indeed lead to a significant, macroscopic mechanical deformation of the matrix. We discuss the biophysical basis for this effect and characterize the physical properties of the associated DNA melting transition. In particular, we reveal several scaling relations between the relevant physical parameters of the system. We promote this DNA-based assay as a possible tool for efficient and specific virus screening.

Aging, the dependence of the dynamics of a physical process on the time t(a) since its original preparation, is observed in systems ranging from the motion of charge carriers in amorphous semiconductors over the blinking dynamics of quantum dots to the tracer dispersion in living biological cells. Here we study the effects of aging on one of the most fundamental properties of a stochastic process, the first-passage dynamics. We find that for an aging continuous time random walk process, the scaling exponent of the density of first-passage times changes twice as the aging progresses and reveals an intermediate scaling regime. The first-passage dynamics depends on t(a) differently for intermediate and strong aging. Similar crossovers are obtained for the first-passage dynamics for a confined and driven particle. Comparison to the motion of an aged particle in the quenched trap model with a bias shows excellent agreement with our analytical findings. Our results demonstrate how first-passage measurements can be used to unravel the age t(a) of a physical system.

We study ultraslow diffusion processes with logarithmic mean squared displacement (MSD) < x(2)(t)> similar or equal to log(gamma)t. Comparison of annealed (renewal) continuous time random walks (CTRWs) with logarithmic waiting time distribution psi(tau) similar or equal to 1/(tau log(1+gamma)tau) and Sinai diffusion in quenched random landscapes reveals striking similarities, despite the great differences in their physical nature. In particular, they exhibit a weakly non-ergodic disparity of the time-averaged and ensemble-averaged MSDs. Remarkably, for the CTRW we observe that the fluctuations of time averages become universal, with an exponential suppression of mobile trajectories. We discuss the fundamental connection between the Golosov localization effect and non-ergodicity in the sense of the disparity between ensemble-averaged MSD and time-averaged MSD.

Recent experiments reveal both passive subdiffusion of various nanoparticles and anomalous active transport of such particles by molecular motors in the molecularly crowded environment of living biological cells. Passive and active microrheology reveals that the origin of this anomalous dynamics is due to the viscoelasticity of the intracellular fluid. How do molecular motors perform in such a highly viscous, dissipative environment? Can we explain the observed co-existence of the anomalous transport of relatively large particles of 100 to 500 nm in size by kinesin motors with the normal transport of smaller particles by the same molecular motors? What is the efficiency of molecular motors in the anomalous transport regime? Here we answer these seemingly conflicting questions and consistently explain experimental findings in a generalization of the well-known continuous diffusion model for molecular motors with two conformational states in which viscoelastic effects are included.

Based on extensive Brownian dynamics simulations we study the thermal motion of a tracer bead in a cross-linked, flexible gel in the limit when the tracer particle size is comparable to or even larger than the equilibrium mesh size of the gel. The analysis of long individual trajectories of the tracer demonstrates the existence of pronounced transient anomalous diffusion. From the time averaged mean squared displacement and the time averaged van Hove correlation functions we elucidate the many-body origin of the non-Brownian tracer bead dynamics. Our results shed new light onto the ongoing debate over the physical origin of steric tracer interactions with structured environments.

Based on the space-fractional Fokker-Planck equation with a delta-sink term, we study the efficiency of random search processes based on Levy flights with power-law distributed jump lengths in the presence of an external drift, for instance, an underwater current, an airflow, or simply the preference of the searcher based on prior experience. While Levy flights turn out to be efficient search processes when the target is upstream relative to the starting point, in the downstream scenario, regular Brownian motion turns out to be advantageous. This is caused by the occurrence of leapovers of Levy flights, due to which Levy flights typically overshoot a point or small interval. Studying the solution of the fractional Fokker-Planck equation, we establish criteria when the combination of the external stream and the initial distance between the starting point and the target favours Levy flights over the regular Brownian search. Contrary to the common belief that Levy flights with a Levy index alpha = 1 (i.e. Cauchy flights) are optimal for sparse targets, we find that the optimal value for alpha may range in the entire interval (1, 2) and explicitly include Brownian motion as the most efficient search strategy overall.

Low-dimensional, many-body systems are often characterized by ultraslow dynamics. We study a labelled particle in a generic system of identical particles with hard-core interactions in a strongly disordered environment. The disorder is manifested through intermittent motion with scale-free sticking times at the single particle level. While for a non-interacting particle we find anomalous diffusion of the power-law form < x(2)(t)> similar or equal to t(alpha) of the mean squared displacement with 0 < alpha < 1, we demonstrate here that the combination of the disordered environment with the many-body interactions leads to an ultraslow, logarithmic dynamics < x(2)(t)> similar or equal to log(1/2)t with a universal 1/2 exponent. Even when a characteristic sticking time exists but the fluctuations of sticking times diverge we observe the mean squared displacement < x(2)(t)> similar or equal to t(gamma) with 0 < gamma < 1/2, that is slower than the famed Harris law < x(2)(t)> similar or equal to t(1/2) without disorder. We rationalize the results in terms of a subordination to a counting process, in which each transition is dominated by the forward waiting time of an ageing continuous time process.

Probably no other field of statistical physics at the borderline of soft matter and biological physics has caused such a flurry of papers as polymer translocation since the 1994 landmark paper by Bezrukov, Vodyanoy, and Parsegian and the study of Kasianowicz in 1996. Experiments, simulations, and theoretical approaches are still contributing novel insights to date, while no universal consensus on the statistical understanding of polymer translocation has been reached. We here collect the published results, in particular, the famous-infamous debate on the scaling exponents governing the translocation process. We put these results into perspective and discuss where the field is going. In particular, we argue that the phenomenon of polymer translocation is non-universal and highly sensitive to the exact specifications of the models and experiments used towards its analysis.

Based on extensive Monte Carlo simulations and analytical considerations we study the electrostatically driven adsorption of flexible polyelectrolyte chains onto charged Janus nanospheres. These net-neutral colloids are composed of two equally but oppositely charged hemispheres. The critical binding conditions for polyelectrolyte chains are analysed as function of the radius of the Janus particle and its surface charge density, as well as the salt concentration in the ambient solution. Specifically for the adsorption of finite-length polyelectrolyte chains onto Janus nanoparticles, we demonstrate that the critical adsorption conditions drastically differ when the size of the Janus particle or the screening length of the electrolyte are varied. We compare the scaling laws obtained for the adsorption-desorption threshold to the known results for uniformly charged spherical particles, observing significant disparities. We also contrast the changes to the polyelectrolyte chain conformations close to the surface of the Janus nanoparticles as compared to those for simple spherical particles. Finally, we discuss experimentally relevant physicochemical systems for which our simulations results may become important. In particular, we observe similar trends with polyelectrolyte complexation with oppositely but heterogeneously charged proteins.

Molecular motors pulling cargos in the viscoelastic cytosol: how power strokes beat subdiffusion
(2014)

The discovery of anomalous diffusion of larger biopolymers and submicron tracers such as endogenous granules, organelles, or virus capsids in living cells, attributed to the viscoelastic nature of the cytoplasm, provokes the question whether this complex environment equally impacts the active intracellular transport of submicron cargos by molecular motors such as kinesins: does the passive anomalous diffusion of free cargo always imply its anomalously slow active transport by motors, the mean transport distance along microtubule growing sublinearly rather than linearly in time? Here we analyze this question within the widely used two-state Brownian ratchet model of kinesin motors based on the continuous-state diffusion along microtubules driven by a flashing binding potential, where the cargo particle is elastically attached to the motor. Depending on the cargo size, the loading force, the amplitude of the binding potential, the turnover frequency of the molecular motor enzyme, and the linker stiffness we demonstrate that the motor transport may turn out either normal or anomalous, as indeed measured experimentally. We show how a highly efficient normal active transport mediated by motors may emerge despite the passive anomalous diffusion of the cargo, and study the intricate effects of the elastic linker. Under different, well specified conditions the microtubule-based motor transport becomes anomalously slow and thus significantly less efficient.

Diffusion of finite-size particles in two-dimensional channels with random wall configurations
(2014)

Diffusion of chemicals or tracer molecules through complex systems containing irregularly shaped channels is important in many applications. Most theoretical studies based on the famed Fick–Jacobs equation focus on the idealised case of infinitely small particles and reflecting boundaries. In this study we use numerical simulations to consider the transport of finite-size particles through asymmetrical two-dimensional channels. Additionally, we examine transient binding of the molecules to the channel walls by applying sticky boundary conditions. We consider an ensemble of particles diffusing in independent channels, which are characterised by common structural parameters. We compare our results for the long-time effective diffusion coefficient with a recent theoretical formula obtained by Dagdug and Pineda [J. Chem. Phys., 2012, 137, 024107].

During the life cycle of bacterial cells the non-mixing of the two ring-shaped daughter genomes is an important prerequisite for the cell division process. Mimicking the environments inside highly crowded biological cells, we study the dynamics and statistical behavior of two flexible ring polymers in the presence of cylindrical confinement and crowding molecules. From extensive computer simulations we determine the degree of ring-ring overlap and the number of inter-monomer contacts for varying volume fractions phi of crowders. We also examine the entropic demixing of polymer rings in the presence of mobile crowders and determine the characteristic times of the internal polymer dynamics. Effects of the ring length on ring-ring overlap are also analyzed. In particular, on systematic variation of the fraction of crowding molecules, a (1 - phi)-scaling is found for the ring-ring overlap length along the cylinder axis, and a non-monotonic dependence of the 3D ring-ring contact number with a maximum at phi approximate to 0.2 is obtained. Our results demonstrate that polymer rings are demixed and separated by particular entropy-favourable partitioning of crowders along the axis of the cylindrical simulation box. These findings help to rationalize the implications of macromolecular crowding for circular DNA molecules in confined spaces inside bacteria as well as in localized cellular compartments inside eukaryotic cells.

We study the effects of ageing-the time delay between initiation of the physical process at t = 0 and start of observation at some time t(a) > 0-and spatial confinement on the properties of heterogeneous diffusion processes (HDPs) with deterministic power-law space-dependent diffusivities, D(x) = D-0 vertical bar x vertical bar(alpha). From analysis of the ensemble and time averaged mean squared displacements and the ergodicity breaking parameter quantifying the inherent degree of irreproducibility of individual realizations of the HDP we obtain striking similarities to ageing subdiffusive continuous time random walks with scale-free waiting time distributions. We also explore how both processes can be distinguished. For confined HDPs we study the long-time saturation of the ensemble and time averaged particle displacements as well as the magnitude of the inherent scatter of time averaged displacements and contrast the outcomes to the results known for other anomalous diffusion processes under confinement.

Ageing single file motion
(2014)

Diffusion of finite-size particles in two-dimensional channels with random wall configurations
(2014)