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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.

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. (c) 2014 AIP Publishing LLC.

We demonstrate the non-ergodicity of a simple Markovian stochastic process with space-dependent diffusion coefficient D(x). For power-law forms D(x) similar or equal to vertical bar x vertical bar(alpha), this process yields anomalous diffusion of the form < x(2)(t)> similar or equal to t(2/(2-alpha)). Interestingly, in both the sub- and superdiffusive regimes we observe weak ergodicity breaking: the scaling of the time-averaged mean-squared displacement <(delta(2)(Delta))over bar> remains linear in the lag time Delta and thus differs from the corresponding ensemble average < x(2)(t)>. We analyse the non-ergodic behaviour of this process in terms of the time-averaged mean- squared displacement (delta(2)) over bar and its random features, i.e. the statistical distribution of (delta(2)) over bar and the ergodicity breaking parameters. The heterogeneous diffusion model represents an alternative approach to non- ergodic, anomalous diffusion that might be particularly relevant for diffusion in heterogeneous media.

The role of ergodicity in anomalous stochastic processes - analysis of single-particle trajectories
(2012)

Single-particle experiments produce time series x(t) of individual particle trajectories, frequently revealing anomalous diffusion behaviour. Typically, individual x(t) are evaluated in terms of time-averaged quantities instead of ensemble averages. Here we discuss the behaviour of the time-averaged mean squared displacement of different stochastic processes giving rise to anomalous diffusion. In particular, we pay attention to the ergodic properties of these processes, i.e. the (non)equivalence of time and ensemble averages.

Single-particle tracking has become a standard tool for the investigation of diffusive properties, especially in small systems such as biological cells. Usually the resulting time series are analyzed in terms of time averages over individual trajectories. Here we study confined normal as well as anomalous diffusion, modeled by fractional Brownian motion and the fractional Langevin equation, and show that even for such ergodic systems time-averaged quantities behave differently from their ensemble-averaged counterparts, irrespective of how long the measurement time becomes. Knowledge of the exact behavior of time averages is therefore fundamental for the proper physical interpretation of measured time series, in particular, for extraction of the relaxation time scale from data.

We discuss a renewal process in which successive events are separated by scale-free waiting time periods. Among other ubiquitous long-time properties, this process exhibits aging: events counted initially in a time interval [0, t] statistically strongly differ from those observed at later times [t(a,) t(a) + t]. The versatility of renewal theory is owed to its abstract formulation. Renewals can be interpreted as steps of a random walk, switching events in two-state models, domain crossings of a random motion, etc. In complex, disordered media, processes with scale-free waiting times play a particularly prominent role. We set up a unified analytical foundation for such anomalous dynamics by discussing in detail the distribution of the aging renewal process. We analyze its half-discrete, half-continuous nature and study its aging time evolution. These results are readily used to discuss a scale-free anomalous diffusion process, the continuous-time random walk. By this, we not only shed light on the profound origins of its characteristic features, such as weak ergodicity breaking, along the way, we also add an extended discussion on aging effects. In particular, we find that the aging behavior of time and ensemble averages is conceptually very distinct, but their time scaling is identical at high ages. Finally, we show how more complex motion models are readily constructed on the basis of aging renewal dynamics.

It is generally believed that random search processes based on scale-free, Levy stable jump length distributions (Levy flights) optimize the search for sparse targets. Here we show that this popular search advantage is less universal than commonly assumed. We study the efficiency of a minimalist search model based on Levy flights in the absence and presence of an external drift (underwater current, atmospheric wind, a preference of the walker owing to prior experience, or a general bias in an abstract search space) based on two different optimization criteria with respect to minimal search time and search reliability (cumulative arrival probability). Although Levy flights turn out to be efficient search processes when the target is far from the starting point, or when relative to the starting point the target is upstream, we show that for close targets and for downstream target positioning regular Brownian motion turns out to be the advantageous search strategy. Contrary to claims that Levy flights with a critical exponent alpha = 1 are optimal for the search of sparse targets in different settings, based on our optimization parameters the optimal a may range in the entire interval (1, 2) and especially include Brownian motion as the overall most efficient search strategy.

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.

Generalized facilitated diffusion model for DNA-binding proteins with search and recognition states
(2012)

Transcription factors (TFs) such as the lac repressor find their target sequence on DNA at remarkably high rates. In the established Berg-von Hippel model for this search process, the TF alternates between three-dimensional diffusion in the bulk solution and one-dimensional sliding along the DNA chain. To overcome the so-called speed-stability paradox, in similar models the TF was considered as being present in two conformations (search state and recognition state) between which it switches stochastically. Combining both the facilitated diffusion model and alternating states, we obtain a generalized model. We explicitly treat bulk excursions for rodlike chains arranged in parallel and consider a simplified model for coiled DNA. Compared to previously considered facilitated diffusion models, corresponding to limiting cases of our generalized model, we surprisingly find a reduced target search rate. Moreover, at optimal conditions there is no longer an equipartition between the time spent by the protein on and off the DNA chain.