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Stochastic Simulation of Reaction-Diffusion Systems

Authors: Paola Lecca, Lorenzo Dematte


Reactiondiffusion systems are mathematical models that describe how the concentration of one or more substances distributed in space changes under the influence of local chemical reactions in which the substances are converted into each other, and diffusion which causes the substances to spread out in space. The classical representation of a reaction-diffusion system is given by semi-linear parabolic partial differential equations, whose general form is ÔêétX(x, t) = DΔX(x, t), where X(x, t) is the state vector, D is the matrix of the diffusion coefficients and Δ is the Laplace operator. If the solute move in an homogeneous system in thermal equilibrium, the diffusion coefficients are constants that do not depend on the local concentration of solvent and of solutes and on local temperature of the medium. In this paper a new stochastic reaction-diffusion model in which the diffusion coefficients are function of the local concentration, viscosity and frictional forces of solvent and solute is presented. Such a model provides a more realistic description of the molecular kinetics in non-homogenoeus and highly structured media as the intra- and inter-cellular spaces. The movement of a molecule A from a region i to a region j of the space is described as a first order reaction Ai k- → Aj , where the rate constant k depends on the diffusion coefficient. Representing the diffusional motion as a chemical reaction allows to assimilate a reaction-diffusion system to a pure reaction system and to simulate it with Gillespie-inspired stochastic simulation algorithms. The stochastic time evolution of the system is given by the occurrence of diffusion events and chemical reaction events. At each time step an event (reaction or diffusion) is selected from a probability distribution of waiting times determined by the specific speed of reaction and diffusion events. Redi is the software tool, developed to implement the model of reaction-diffusion kinetics and dynamics. It is a free software, that can be downloaded from To demonstrate the validity of the new reaction-diffusion model, the simulation results of the chaperone-assisted protein folding in cytoplasm obtained with Redi are reported. This case study is redrawing the attention of the scientific community due to current interests on protein aggregation as a potential cause for neurodegenerative diseases.

Keywords: reaction-diffusion systems, stochastic simulation algorithm, Fick's law

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