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Open Access Open Badges Research

Safe uses of Hill's model: an exact comparison with the Adair-Klotz model

Zoran Konkoli

Author Affiliations

Chalmers University of Technology, Department of Microtechnology and Nanoscience, Bionano Systems Laboratory, Sweden

Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling 2011, 8:10  doi:10.1186/1742-4682-8-10

Published: 26 April 2011



The Hill function and the related Hill model are used frequently to study processes in the living cell. There are very few studies investigating the situations in which the model can be safely used. For example, it has been shown, at the mean field level, that the dose response curve obtained from a Hill model agrees well with the dose response curves obtained from a more complicated Adair-Klotz model, provided that the parameters of the Adair-Klotz model describe strongly cooperative binding. However, it has not been established whether such findings can be extended to other properties and non-mean field (stochastic) versions of the same, or other, models.


In this work a rather generic quantitative framework for approaching such a problem is suggested. The main idea is to focus on comparing the particle number distribution functions for Hill's and Adair-Klotz's models instead of investigating a particular property (e.g. the dose response curve). The approach is valid for any model that can be mathematically related to the Hill model. The Adair-Klotz model is used to illustrate the technique. One main and two auxiliary similarity measures were introduced to compare the distributions in a quantitative way. Both time dependent and the equilibrium properties of the similarity measures were studied.


A strongly cooperative Adair-Klotz model can be replaced by a suitable Hill model in such a way that any property computed from the two models, even the one describing stochastic features, is approximately the same. The quantitative analysis showed that boundaries of the regions in the parameter space where the models behave in the same way exhibit a rather rich structure.