Mean First-Passage Times in Biology

Isr J Chem. 2016 Nov;56(9-10):816-824. doi: 10.1002/ijch.201600040. Epub 2016 Aug 5.


Many biochemical processes, such as charge hopping or protein folding, can be described by an average timescale to reach a final state, starting from an initial state. Here, we provide a pedagogical treatment of the mean first-passage time (MFPT) of a physical process, which depends on the number of intervening states between the initial state and the target state. Our aim in this tutorial review is to provide a clear development of the mean first-passage time formalism and to show some of its practical utility. The MFPT treatment can provide a useful link between microscopic rates and the average timescales often probed by experiment.

Keywords: Markov chains; electron transfer; mean first-passage time; protein folding.