The role of multivalency in the association kinetics of patchy particle complexes

Arthur C. Newton, Jan Groenewold, Willem K. Kegel, Peter G. Bolhuis

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Association and dissociation of particles are elementary steps in many natural and technological relevant processes. For many such processes, the presence of multiple binding sites is essential. For instance, protein complexes and regular structures such as virus shells are formed from elementary building blocks with multiple binding sites. Here we address a fundamental question concerning the role of multivalency of binding sites in the association kinetics of such complexes. Using single replica transition interface sampling simulations, we investigate the influence of the multivalency on the binding kinetics and the association mechanism of patchy particles that form polyhedral clusters. When the individual bond strength is fixed, the kinetics naturally is very dependent on the multivalency, with dissociation rate constants exponentially decreasing with the number of bonds. In contrast, we find that when the total bond energy per particle is kept constant, association and dissociation rate constants turn out rather independent of multivalency, although of course still very dependent on the total energy. The association and dissociation mechanisms, however, depend on the presence and nature of the intermediate states. For instance, pathways that visit intermediate states are less prevalent for particles with five binding sites compared to the case of particles with only three bonds. The presence of intermediate states can lead to kinetic trapping and malformed aggregates. We discuss implications for natural forming complexes such as virus shells and for the design of artificial colloidal patchy particles.

Original languageEnglish
Article number234901
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jun 2017


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