Thermodynamics of biological processes.

Department of Physics, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA.
Methods in enzymology (Impact Factor: 1.9). 01/2011; 492:27-59. DOI: 10.1016/B978-0-12-381268-1.00014-8
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT There is a long and rich tradition of using ideas from both equilibrium thermodynamics and its microscopic partner theory of equilibrium statistical mechanics. In this chapter, we provide some background on the origins of the seemingly unreasonable effectiveness of ideas from both thermodynamics and statistical mechanics in biology. After making a description of these foundational issues, we turn to a series of case studies primarily focused on binding that are intended to illustrate the broad biological reach of equilibrium thinking in biology. These case studies include ligand-gated ion channels, thermodynamic models of transcription, and recent applications to the problem of bacterial chemotaxis. As part of the description of these case studies, we explore a number of different uses of the famed Monod-Wyman-Changeux (MWC) model as a generic tool for providing a mathematical characterization of two-state systems. These case studies should provide a template for tailoring equilibrium ideas to other problems of biological interest.

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