Beyond microscopic reversibility: Are observable nonequilibrium processes precisely reversible?

Divesh Bhatt, Daniel M. Zuckerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Although the principle of microscopic reversibility has been studied for many decades, there remain ambiguities in its application to nonequilibrium processes of importance to chemistry, physics, and biology. Examples include whether protein unfolding should follow the same pathways and in the same proportions as folding and whether unbinding should likewise mirror binding. Using continuum-space calculations which extend previous kinetic analyses, we demonstrate formally that the precise symmetry of forward and reverse processes is expected only under certain special conditions. Approximate symmetry will be exhibited under a separate set of conditions. Exact, approximate, and broken symmetry scenarios are verified in several ways: using numerical calculations on toy and molecular systems; using exact calculations on kinetic models of induced fit in protein-ligand binding; and based on reported experimental results. The analysis highlights intrinsic challenges and ambiguities in the design and the analysis of both experiments and simulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2520-2527
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Chemical Theory and Computation
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 9 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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