Concentration fluctuations in a mesoscopic oscillating chemical reaction system

Hong Qian, Saveez Saffarian, Elliot L. Elson

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108 Scopus citations


Under sustained pumping, kinetics of macroscopic nonlinear biochemical reaction systems far from equilibrium either can be in a stationary steady state or can execute sustained oscillations about a fixed mean. For a system of two dynamic species X and Y, the concentrations nx and ny will be constant or will repetitively trace a closed loop in the (nx, ny) phase plane, respectively. We study a mesoscopic system with nx and ny very small; hence the occurrence of random fluctuations modifies the deterministic behavior and the law of mass action is replaced by a stochastic model. We show that nx and ny execute cyclic random walks in the (nx, ny) plane whether or not the deterministic kinetics for the corresponding macroscopic system represents a steady or an oscillating state. Probability distributions and correlation functions for nx(t) and ny(t) show quantitative but not qualitative differences between states that would appear as either oscillating or steady in the corresponding macroscopic systems. A diffusion-like equation for probability P(nx, ny, t) is obtained for the two-dimensional Brownian motion in the (nx, ny) phase plane. In the limit of large nx, ny, the deterministic nonlinear kinetics derived from mass action is recovered. The nature of large fluctuations in an oscillating nonequilibrium system and the conceptual difference between "thermal stochasticity" and "temporal complexity" are clarified by this analysis. This result is relevant to fluorescence correlation spectroscopy and metabolic reaction networks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10376-10381
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 2002


  • Fluorescence correlation spectroscopy
  • Limit cycle
  • Nanobiochemistry
  • Nonequilibrium steady state
  • Random walk


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