A simple theory for molecular chemotaxis driven by specific binding interactions

Kathleen T. Krist, Ayusman Sen, W. G. Noid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Recent experiments have suggested that enzymes and other small molecules chemotax toward their substrates. However, the physical forces driving this chemotaxis are currently debated. In this work, we consider a simple thermodynamic theory for molecular chemotaxis that is based on the McMillan-Mayer theory of dilute solutions and Schellman’s theory for macromolecular binding. Even in the absence of direct interactions, the chemical binding equilibrium introduces a coupling term into the relevant free energy, which then reduces the chemical potential of both enzymes and their substrates. Assuming a local thermodynamic equilibrium, this binding contribution to the chemical potential generates an effective thermodynamic force that promotes chemotaxis by driving each solute toward its binding partner. Our numerical simulations demonstrate that, although small, this thermodynamic force is qualitatively consistent with several experimental studies. Thus, our study may provide additional insight into the role of the thermodynamic binding free energy for molecular chemotaxis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number164902
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Issue number16
StatePublished - Oct 28 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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