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Section: Scientific Foundations

Stochastic Equations

How identical cells perform different tasks may depend on deterministic factors, like external signals or pre-programming, or on stochastic factors. Intra-cellular processes are inherently noisy due to low numbers of molecules, complex interactions, limited number of DNA binding sites, the dynamical nature of molecular interactions, etc. Yet at the population level, deterministic and stochastic systems can behave the same way because of averaging over the entire population. This is why it is important to understand the causes and the roles of stochasticity in intra-cellular processes. In its simplest form, stochastic modelling of gene regulation networks considers the evolution of a low number of molecules (integer number) as they are synthesized, bound to other molecules, or degraded. The number n(t) of molecules at time t is a stochastic process whose probability transition to n+1 or n-1 is governed by a specific law. In some cases, master equations can yield analytical solutions for the probability distribution of n, P(n(t)). Numerically, efficient algorithms have been developed (Gillespie algorithms and variants) to handle statistically exact solutions of biochemical reactions. Recently, these algorithms have been adapted to take into account time delays. This allows a stochastic description of delayed regulatory feedback loops, both at the intra-cellular and the population levels. Another approach with stochastic differential equation, using Langevin equations is relevant to study extrinsic sources of noise on a system. A thesis (R. Yvinec) supervised by L. Pujo-Menjouet and M.C. Mackey devoted to "stochastic differential equations", started in Lyon on October 2009.


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