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Reaction dynamics under confinement: an exact path integral treatment of a two-stage model of stochastic gene expression

IOP Publishing Ltd
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  • Inorganic & Physical Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Mathematics


Gene expression in living systems is inherently stochastic, and tends to produce varying numbers of proteins over repeated cycles of transcription and translation. In this paper, an expression is derived for the steady-state protein number distribution starting from a two-stage kinetic model of the gene expression process involving p proteins and r mRNAs. The derivation is based on an exact path integral evaluation of the joint distribution, P(p, r, t), of p and r at time t, which can be expressed in terms of the coupled Langevin equations for p and r that represent the two-stage model in continuum form. The steady-state distribution of p alone, P(p), is obtained from P(p, r, t) (a bivariate Gaussian) by integrating out the r degrees of freedom and taking the limit t -> infinity. P(p) is found to be proportional to the product of a Gaussian and a complementary error function. It provides a generally satisfactory fit to simulation data on the same two-stage process when the translational efficiency (a measure of intrinsic noise levels in the system) is relatively low; it is less successful as a model of the data when the translational efficiency (and noise levels) are high.

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