Stochastic theory of large-scale enzyme-reaction networks: Finite copy number corrections to rate equation models

Philipp Thomas, Arthur V. Straube, Ramon Grima

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Chemical reactions inside cells occur in compartment volumes in the range of atto- to femtoliters. Physiological concentrations realized in such small volumes imply low copy numbers of interacting molecules with the consequence of considerable fluctuations in the concentrations. In contrast, rate equation models are based on the implicit assumption of infinitely large numbers of interacting molecules, or equivalently, that reactions occur in infinite volumes at constant macroscopic concentrations. In this article we compute the finite-volume corrections (or equivalently the finite copy number corrections) to the solutions of the rate equations for chemical reaction networks composed of arbitrarily large numbers of enzyme-catalyzed reactions which are confined inside a small subcellular compartment. This is achieved by applying a mesoscopic version of the quasisteady-state assumption to the exact Fokker-Planck equation associated with the Poisson representation of the chemical master equation. The procedure yields impressively simple and compact expressions for the finite-volume corrections. We prove that the predictions of the rate equations will always underestimate the actual steady-state substrate concentrations for an enzyme-reaction network confined in a small volume. In particular we show that the finite-volume corrections increase with decreasing subcellular volume, decreasing Michaelis-Menten constants, and increasing enzyme saturation. The magnitude of the corrections depends sensitively on the topology of the network. The predictions of the theory are shown to be in excellent agreement with stochastic simulations for two types of networks typically associated with protein methylation and metabolism. (C) 2010 American Institute of Physics. [doi:10.1063/1.3505552]

Original languageEnglish
Article number195101
Pages (from-to)-
Number of pages12
JournalThe Journal of Chemical Physics
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2010


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