Close agreement between deterministic versus stochastic modeling of first-passage time to vesicle fusion

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Ca2+-dependent cell processes, such as neurotransmitter or endocrine vesicle fusion, are inherently stochastic due to large fluctuations in Ca2+ channel gating, Ca2+ diffusion, and Ca2+ binding to buffers and target sensors. However, previous studies revealed closer-than-expected agreement between deterministic and stochastic simulations of Ca2+ diffusion, buffering, and sensing if Ca2+ channel gating is not Ca2+ dependent. To understand this result more fully, we present a comparative study complementing previous work, focusing on Ca2+ dynamics downstream of Ca2+ channel gating. Specifically, we compare deterministic (mean-field/mass-action) and stochastic simulations of vesicle exocytosis latency, quantified by the probability density of the first-passage time (FPT) to the Ca2+-bound state of a vesicle fusion sensor, following a brief Ca2+ current pulse. We show that under physiological constraints, the discrepancy between FPT densities obtained using the two approaches remains small even if as few as ∼50 Ca2+ ions enter per single channel-vesicle release unit. Using a reduced two-compartment model for ease of analysis, we illustrate how this close agreement arises from the smallness of correlations between fluctuations of the reactant molecule numbers, despite the large magnitude of fluctuation amplitudes. This holds if all relevant reactions are heteroreaction between molecules of different species, as is the case for bimolecular Ca2+ binding to buffers and downstream sensor targets. In this case, diffusion and buffering effectively decorrelate the state of the Ca2+ sensor from local Ca2+ fluctuations. Thus, fluctuations in the Ca2+ sensor's state underlying the FPT distribution are only weakly affected by the fluctuations in the local Ca2+ concentration around its average, deterministically computable value.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4569-4584
Number of pages16
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 6 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics


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