A Lattice-Boltzmann scheme for the simulation of diffusion in intracellular crowded systems

Liliana Angeles-Martinez, Konstantinos Theodoropoulos

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    Background The intracellular environment is a complex and crowded medium where the diffusion of proteins, metabolites and other molecules can be decreased. One of the most popular methodologies for the simulation of diffusion in crowding systems is the Monte Carlo algorithm (MC) which tracks the movement of each particle. This can, however, be computationally expensive for a system comprising a large number of molecules. On the other hand, the Lattice Boltzmann Method (LBM) tracks the movement of collections of molecules, which represents significant savings in computational time. Nevertheless in the classical manifestation of such scheme the crowding conditions are neglected. Methods In this paper we use Scaled Particle Theory (SPT) to approximate the probability to find free space for the displacement of hard-disk molecules and in this way to incorporate the crowding effect to the LBM. This new methodology which couples SPT and LBM is validated using a kinetic Monte Carlo (kMC) algorithm, which is used here as our "computational experiment". Results The results indicate that LBM over-predicts the diffusion in 2D crowded systems, while the proposed coupled SPT-LBM predicts the same behaviour as the kinetic Monte Carlo (kMC) algorithm but with a significantly reduced computational effort. Despite the fact that small deviations between the two methods were observed, in part due to the mesoscopic and microscopic nature of each method, respectively, the agreement was satisfactory both from a qualitative and a quantitative point of view. Conclusions A crowding-adaptation to LBM has been developed using SPT, allowing fast simulations of diffusion-systems of different size hard-disk molecules in two-dimensional space. This methodology takes into account crowding conditions; not only the space fraction occupied by the crowder molecules but also the influence of the size of the crowder which can affect the displacement of molecules across the lattice system.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number353
    JournalB M C Bioinformatics
    Publication statusPublished - 3 Nov 2015


    • Lattice Boltzmann Method
    • Scaled Particle Theory
    • Crowding conditions
    • Diffusion systems


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