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Biophys J. 1987 Dec;52(6):989-97.

Lateral diffusion in an archipelago. The effect of mobile obstacles.

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Department of Agronomy and Range Science, University of California, Davis 95616.


Lateral diffusion of mobile proteins and lipids (tracers) in a membrane is hindered by the presence of proteins (obstacles) in the membrane. If the obstacles are immobile, their effect may be described by percolation theory, which states that the long-range diffusion constant of the tracers goes to zero when the area fraction of obstacles is greater than the percolation threshold. If the obstacles are themselves mobile, the diffusion constant of the tracers depends on the area fraction of obstacles and the relative jump rate of tracers and obstacles. This paper presents Monte Carlo calculations of diffusion constants on square and triangular lattices as a function of the concentration of obstacles and the relative jump rate. The diffusion constant for particles of various sizes is also obtained. Calculated values of the concentration-dependent diffusion constant are compared with observed values for gramicidin and bacteriorhodopsin. The effect of the proteins as inert obstacles is significant, but other factors, such as protein-protein interactions and perturbation of lipid viscosity by proteins, are of comparable importance. Potential applications include the diffusion of proteins at high concentrations (such as rhodopsin in rod outer segments), the modulation of diffusion by release of membrane proteins from cytoskeletal attachment, and the diffusion of mobile redox carriers in mitochondria, chloroplasts, and endoplasmic reticulum.

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