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Journal Article

Universal proximity effect in target search kinetics in the few-encounter limit.


Godec,  A.
Research Group of Mathematical Biophysics, MPI for Biophysical Chemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Fulltext (public)

(Publisher version), 533KB

Supplementary Material (public)

(Supplementary material), 508KB


Godec, A., & Metzler, R. (2016). Universal proximity effect in target search kinetics in the few-encounter limit. Physical Review X, 6(4): 041037. doi:10.1103/PhysRevX.6.041037.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002D-CAB2-9
When does a diffusing particle reach its target for the first time? This first-passage time (FPT) problem is central to the kinetics of molecular reactions in chemistry and molecular biology. Here, we explain the behavior of smooth FPT densities, for which all moments are finite, and demonstrate universal yet generally non-Poissonian long-time asymptotics for a broad variety of transport processes. While Poisson-like asymptotics arise generically in the presence of an effective repulsion in the immediate vicinity of the target, a time-scale separation between direct and reflected indirect trajectories gives rise to a universal proximity effect: Direct paths, heading more or less straight from the point of release to the target, become typical and focused, with a narrow spread of the corresponding first-passage times. Conversely, statistically dominant indirect paths exploring the entire system tend to be massively dissimilar. The initial distance to the target particularly impacts gene regulatory or competitive stochastic processes, for which few binding events often determine the regulatory outcome. The proximity effect is independent of details of the transport, highlighting the robust character of the FPT features uncovered here.