Confinement of molecules in specific small volumes and areas within a cell is likely to be a general strategy that is developed during evolution for regulating the interactions and functions of biomolecules. The cellular plasma membrane, which is the outermost membrane that surrounds the entire cell, was considered to be a continuous two-dimensional liquid, but it is becoming clear that it consists of numerous nano-meso-scale domains with various lifetimes, such as raft domains and cytoskeleton-induced compartments, and membrane molecules are dynamically trapped in these domains. In this article, we give a theoretical account on the effects of molecular confinement on reversible bimolecular reactions in a partitioned surface such as the plasma membrane. By performing simulations based on a lattice-based model of diffusion and reaction, we found that in the presence of membrane partitioning, bimolecular reactions that occur in each compartment proceed in bursts during which the reaction rate is sharply and briefly increased even though the asymptotic reaction rate remains the same. We characterized the time between reaction bursts and the burst amplitude as a function of the model parameters, and discussed the biological significance of the reaction bursts in the presence of strong inhibitor activity.
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