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Diffusion through thin membranes: Modeling across scales

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Original languageEnglish
Article number043309
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 12 Apr 2016
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


From macroscopic to microscopic scales it is demonstrated that diffusion through membranes can be modeled using specific boundary conditions across them. The membranes are here considered thin in comparison to the overall size of the system. In a macroscopic scale the membrane is introduced as a transmission boundary condition, which enables an effective modeling of systems that involve multiple scales. In a mesoscopic scale, a numerical lattice-Boltzmann scheme with a partial-bounceback condition at the membrane is proposed and analyzed. It is shown that this mesoscopic approach provides a consistent approximation of the transmission boundary condition. Furthermore, analysis of the mesoscopic scheme gives rise to an expression for the permeability of a thin membrane as a function of a mesoscopic transmission parameter. In a microscopic model, the mean waiting time for a passage of a particle through the membrane is in accordance with this permeability. Numerical results computed with the mesoscopic scheme are then compared successfully with analytical solutions derived in a macroscopic scale, and the membrane model introduced here is used to simulate diffusive transport between the cell nucleus and cytoplasm through the nuclear envelope in a realistic cell model based on fluorescence microscopy data. By comparing the simulated fluorophore transport to the experimental one, we determine the permeability of the nuclear envelope of HeLa cells to enhanced yellow fluorescent protein.

Publication forum classification

Field of science, Statistics Finland