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Biophys J. 1986 Oct;50(4):583-99.

Cooperative polymerization reactions. Analytical approximations, numerical examples, and experimental strategy.


How does one obtain kinetic rate constants from the time course of a reversible and cooperative polymerization reaction? We examine a simple version of the homogeneous nucleation-elongation model with both analytical and numerical techniques to test some common assumptions and develop an experimental strategy. The assumption of irreversible polymer formation is found to be a useful and adequate approximation for the numerical determination of monomer disappearance. The assumption of early "pre-equilibrium" between monomer and seed, however, is shown numerically and analytically to produce significant errors over a wide range of parameters, particularly for small seed lengths. We exhibit numerical solutions for many different parameters, and also discuss analytical techniques that allow approximate solutions for several conditions: the high-concentration limit; the long-time limit; and the long-seed-length, lows concentration limit. The overall reaction simplifies when the monomer concentration is large. An experimental strategy for elucidating the seed size and the rate constants for polymerization and depolymerization is presented.

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