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Rate theories for biologists

  • Huan-Xiang Zhou (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 August 2010

Some of the rate theories that are most useful for modeling biological processes are reviewed. By delving into some of the details and subtleties in the development of the theories, the review will hopefully help the reader gain a more than superficial perspective. Examples are presented to illustrate how rate theories can be used to generate insight at the microscopic level into biomolecular behaviors. An attempt is made to clear up a number of misconceptions in the literature regarding popular rate theories, including the appearance of Planck's constant in the transition-state theory and the Smoluchowski result as an upper limit for protein–protein and protein–DNA association rate constants. Future work in combining the implementation of rate theories through computer simulations with experimental probes of rate processes, and in modeling effects of intracellular environments so that theories can be used for generating rate constants for systems biology studies is particularly exciting.

Corresponding author
*Author for Correspondence: H.-X. Zhou, Department of Physics and Institute of Molecular Biophysics, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306, USA. Tel.: (850) 645-1336; Fax: (850) 644-7244; Email:
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