Universal catastrophe time distributions of dynamically unstable polymers

Paul B. Dieterle, Jenny Zheng, Ethan Garner, Ariel Amir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Dynamic instability - the growth, catastrophe, and shrinkage of quasi-one-dimensional filaments - has been observed in multiple biopolymers. Scientists have long understood the catastrophic cessation of growth and subsequent depolymerization as arising from the interplay of hydrolysis and polymerization at the tip of the polymer. Here we show that for a broad class of catastrophe models, the expected catastrophe time distribution is exponential. We show that the distribution shape is insensitive to noise, but that depletion of monomers from a finite pool can dramatically change the distribution shape by reducing the polymerization rate. We derive a form for this finite-pool catastrophe time distribution and show that finite-pool effects can be important even when the depletion of monomers does not greatly alter the polymerization rate.

Original languageEnglish
Article number064502
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 2022
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability


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