Hybrid stochastic simulations of intracellular reaction-diffusion systems

Publication Date



Computational Biology and Chemistry


With the observation that stochasticity is important in biological systems, chemical kinetics have begun to receive wider interest. While the use of Monte Carlo discrete event simulations most accurately capture the variability of molecular species, they become computationally costly for complex reaction-diffusion systems with large populations of molecules. On the other hand, continuous time models are computationally efficient but they fail to capture any variability in the molecular species. In this study a hybrid stochastic approach is introduced for simulating reaction-diffusion systems. We developed an adaptive partitioning strategy in which processes with high frequency are simulated with deterministic rate-based equations, and those with low frequency using the exact stochastic algorithm of Gillespie. Therefore the stochastic behavior of cellular pathways is preserved while being able to apply it to large populations of molecules. We describe our method and demonstrate its accuracy and efficiency compared with the Gillespie algorithm for two different systems. First, a model of intracellular viral kinetics with two steady states and second, a compartmental model of the postsynaptic spine head for studying the dynamics of Ca+2 and NMDA receptors.


Algorithms, Biochemical Processes, Calcium, Cells, Computer Simulation, Dendritic Spines, Diffusion, Kinetics, Models, Biological, Stochastic Processes