Biological transport processes and space dimension

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1991 Aug 1;88(15):6750-4. doi: 10.1073/pnas.88.15.6750.


We discuss the generic time behavior of reaction-diffusion processes capable of modeling various types of biological transport processes, such as ligand migration in proteins and gating fluctuations in ion channel proteins. The main observable in these two cases, the fraction of unbound ligands and the probability of finding the channel in the closed state, respectively, exhibits an algebraic t-1/2 decay at intermediate times, followed by an exponential cutoff. We provide a simple framework for understanding these observations and explain their ubiquity by showing that these qualitative results are independent of space dimension. We also derive an experimental criterion to distinguish between a one-dimensional process and one whose effective dimension is higher.

MeSH terms

  • Biological Transport*
  • Ion Channels / physiology*
  • Kinetics
  • Ligands
  • Mathematics
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Photolysis
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Time Factors


  • Ion Channels
  • Ligands
  • Proteins