Diffusive search and trajectories on tubular networks a propagator approach

Zubenelgenubi C. Scott, Department of Physics
Aidan I. Brown, Ryerson University
Saurabh S. Mogre, Department of Physics
Laura M. Westrate, Calvin University


Several organelles in eukaryotic cells, including mitochondria and the endoplasmic reticulum, form interconnected tubule networks extending throughout the cell. These tubular networks host many biochemical pathways that rely on proteins diffusively searching through the network to encounter binding partners or localized target regions. Predicting the behavior of such pathways requires a quantitative understanding of how confinement to a reticulated structure modulates reaction kinetics. In this work, we develop both exact analytical methods to compute mean first passage times and efficient kinetic Monte Carlo algorithms to simulate trajectories of particles diffusing in a tubular network. Our approach leverages exact propagator functions for the distribution of transition times between network nodes and allows large simulation time steps determined by the network structure. The methodology is applied to both synthetic planar networks and organelle network structures, demonstrating key general features such as the heterogeneity of search times in different network regions and the functional advantage of broadly distributing target sites throughout the network. The proposed algorithms pave the way for future exploration of the interrelationship between tubular network structure and biomolecular reaction kinetics.