An effective rate equation approach to reaction kinetics in small volumes: Theory and application to biochemical reactions in nonequilibrium steady-state conditions
Journal of Chemical Physics
Chemical master equations provide a mathematical description of stochastic reaction kinetics in well-mixed conditions. They are a valid description over length scales that are larger than the reactive mean free path and thus describe kinetics in compartments of mesoscopic and macroscopic dimensions. The trajectories of the stochastic chemical processes described by the master equation can be ensemble-averaged to obtain the average number density of chemical species, i.e., the true
... true concentration, at any spatial scale of interest. For macroscopic volumes, the true concentration is very well approximated by the solution of the corresponding deterministic and macroscopic rate equations, i.e., the macroscopic concentration. However, this equivalence breaks down for mesoscopic volumes. These deviations are particularly significant for open systems and cannot be calculated via the Fokker-Planck or linear-noise approximations of the master equation. We utilize the system-size expansion including terms of the order of ⍀ −1/2 to derive a set of differential equations whose solution approximates the true concentration as given by the master equation. These equations are valid in any open or closed chemical reaction network and at both the mesoscopic and macroscopic scales. In the limit of large volumes, the effective mesoscopic rate equations become precisely equal to the conventional macroscopic rate equations. We compare the three formalisms of effective mesoscopic rate equations, conventional rate equations, and chemical master equations by applying them to several biochemical reaction systems ͑homodimeric and heterodimeric protein-protein interactions, series of sequential enzyme reactions, and positive feedback loops͒ in nonequilibrium steady-state conditions. In all cases, we find that the effective mesoscopic rate equations can predict very well the true concentration of a chemical species. This provides a useful method by which one can quickly determine the regions of parameter space in which there are maximum differences between the solutions of the master equation and the corresponding rate equations. We show that these differences depend sensitively on the Fano factors and on the inherent structure and topology of the chemical network. The theory of effective mesoscopic rate equations generalizes the conventional rate equations of physical chemistry to describe kinetics in systems of mesoscopic size such as biological cells.