Does Electric Friction Matter in Living Cells?

Dmitrii Makarov, Hagen Hofmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The thermal motion of charged proteins causes randomly fluctuating electric fields inside cells. According to the fluctuation–dissipation theorem, there is an additional friction force associated with such fluctuations. However, the impact of these fluctuations on the diffusion and dynamics of proteins in the cytoplasm is unclear. Here, we provide an order-of-magnitude estimate of this effect by treating electric field fluctuations within a generalized Langevin equation model with a time-dependent friction memory kernel. We find that electric friction is generally negligible compared to solvent friction. However, a significant slowdown of protein diffusion and dynamics is expected for biomolecules with high net charges such as intrinsically disordered proteins and RNA. The results show that direct contacts between biomolecules in a cell are not necessarily required to alter their dynamics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6144-6153
Number of pages10
JournalThe Journal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number23
Early online date3 Jun 2021
StatePublished - 17 Jun 2021


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