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Biophys J. 2009 Oct 21;97(8):2137-45. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2009.08.004.

Confinement regulates complex biochemical networks: initiation of blood clotting by "diffusion acting".

Author information

1
Department of Chemistry and Institute for Biophysical Dynamics, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Abstract

This study shows that environmental confinement strongly affects the activation of nonlinear reaction networks, such as blood coagulation (clotting), by small quantities of activators. Blood coagulation is sensitive to the local concentration of soluble activators, initiating only when the activators surpass a threshold concentration, and therefore is regulated by mass transport phenomena such as flow and diffusion. Here, diffusion was limited by decreasing the size of microfluidic chambers, and it was found that microparticles carrying either the classical stimulus, tissue factor, or a bacterial stimulus, Bacillus cereus, initiated coagulation of human platelet-poor plasma only when confined. A simple analytical argument and numerical model were used to describe the mechanism for this phenomenon: confinement causes diffusible activators to accumulate locally and surpass the threshold concentration. To interpret the results, a dimensionless confinement number, Cn, was used to describe whether a stimulus was confined, and a Damköhler number, Da(2), was used to describe whether a subthreshold stimulus could initiate coagulation. In the context of initiation of coagulation by bacteria, this mechanism can be thought of as "diffusion acting", which is distinct from "diffusion sensing". The ability of confinement and diffusion acting to change the outcome of coagulation suggests that confinement should also regulate other biological "on" and "off" processes that are controlled by thresholds.

PMID:
19843446
PMCID:
PMC2764071
DOI:
10.1016/j.bpj.2009.08.004
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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