Communication between noncontacting macromolecules

Jens Völker, Kenneth Breslauer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

16 Scopus citations


Molecular interactions are the language that molecules use to communicate recognition, binding, and regulation, events central to biological control mechanisms. Traditionally, such interactions involve direct, atom-to-atom, noncovalent contacts, or indirect contacts bridged by relatively fixed solvent molecules. Here we discuss a third class of molecular communication that, to date, has received less experimental attention, namely solvent-mediated communication between noncontacting macromolecules. This form of communication can be understood in terms of fundamental, well-established principles (coupled equilibria and linkage thermodynamics) that govern interactions between individual polymers and their solutions. In contrast to simple solutions used in laboratory studies, biological systems contain a multitude of nominally noninteracting biopolymers within the same solution environment. The exquisite control of biological function requires some form of communication between many of these solution components, even in the absence of direct and/or indirect contacts. Such communication must be considered when describing potential mechanisms of biological regulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-42
Number of pages22
JournalAnnual Review of Biophysics and Biomolecular Structure
StatePublished - Jun 30 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics
  • Structural Biology


  • Coupled equilibria
  • Linkage thermodynamics
  • Molecular crowding
  • Solute-solvent interactions
  • Through-solution communication

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