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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.

Towards a full quantitative description of single-molecule reaction kinetics in biological cells
(2018)

The first-passage time (FPT), i.e., the moment when a stochastic process reaches a given threshold value for the first time, is a fundamental mathematical concept with immediate applications. In particular, it quantifies the statistics of instances when biomolecules in a biological cell reach their specific binding sites and trigger cellular regulation. Typically, the first-passage properties are given in terms of mean first-passage times. However, modern experiments now monitor single-molecular binding-processes in living cells and thus provide access to the full statistics of the underlying first-passage events, in particular, inherent cell-to-cell fluctuations. We here present a robust explicit approach for obtaining the distribution of FPTs to a small partially reactive target in cylindrical-annulus domains, which represent typical bacterial and neuronal cell shapes. We investigate various asymptotic behaviours of this FPT distribution and show that it is typically very broad in many biological situations, thus, the mean FPT can differ from the most probable FPT by orders of magnitude. The most probable FPT is shown to strongly depend only on the starting position within the geometry and to be almost independent of the target size and reactivity. These findings demonstrate the dramatic relevance of knowing the full distribution of FPTs and thus open new perspectives for a more reliable description of many intracellular processes initiated by the arrival of one or few biomolecules to a small, spatially localised region inside the cell.

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.