TitleMaximum likelihood and the single receptor.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsEndres, RG, Wingreen, NS
JournalPhys Rev Lett
Date Published2009 Oct 9
KeywordsAlgorithms, Cells, Computer Simulation, Humans, Likelihood Functions, Models, Biological, Receptors, Cell Surface

The accuracy by which biological cells sense chemical concentration is ultimately limited by the random arrival of particles at the receptors by diffusion. This fundamental physical limit is generally considered to be the Berg-Purcell limit [Biophys. J. 20, 193 (1977)]. Here we derive a lower limit by applying maximum likelihood to the time series of receptor occupancy. The increased accuracy stems from solely considering the unoccupied time intervals--disregarding the occupied time intervals as these do not contain any information about the external particle concentration, and only decrease the accuracy of the concentration estimate. Receptors which minimize the bound time intervals achieve the highest possible accuracy. We discuss how a cell could implement such an optimal sensing strategy by absorbing or degrading bound particles.

Alternate JournalPhys. Rev. Lett.