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PLoS One. 2013 May 2;8(5):e62218. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0062218. Print 2013.

Influences of excluded volume of molecules on signaling processes on the biomembrane.

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  • 1Department of Mathematical and Life Sciences, Hiroshima University, Higashi-Hiroshima, Hiroshima, Japan.


We investigate the influences of the excluded volume of molecules on biochemical reaction processes on 2-dimensional surfaces using a model of signal transduction processes on biomembranes. We perform simulations of the 2-dimensional cell-based model, which describes the reactions and diffusion of the receptors, signaling proteins, target proteins, and crowders on the cell membrane. The signaling proteins are activated by receptors, and these activated signaling proteins activate target proteins that bind autonomously from the cytoplasm to the membrane, and unbind from the membrane if activated. If the target proteins bind frequently, the volume fraction of molecules on the membrane becomes so large that the excluded volume of the molecules for the reaction and diffusion dynamics cannot be negligible. We find that such excluded volume effects of the molecules induce non-trivial variations of the signal flow, defined as the activation frequency of target proteins, as follows. With an increase in the binding rate of target proteins, the signal flow varies by i) monotonically increasing; ii) increasing then decreasing in a bell-shaped curve; or iii) increasing, decreasing, then increasing in an S-shaped curve. We further demonstrate that the excluded volume of molecules influences the hierarchical molecular distributions throughout the reaction processes. In particular, when the system exhibits a large signal flow, the signaling proteins tend to surround the receptors to form receptor-signaling protein clusters, and the target proteins tend to become distributed around such clusters. To explain these phenomena, we analyze the stochastic model of the local motions of molecules around the receptor.

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