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The reaction-diffusion master equation (RDME) is a standard modelling approach for understanding stochastic and spatial chemical kinetics. An inherent assumption is that molecules are point-like. Here, we introduce the excluded volume reaction-diffusion master equation (vRDME) which takes into account volume exclusion effects on stochastic kinetics due to a finite molecular radius. We obtain an exact closed form solution of the RDME and of the vRDME for a general chemical system in equilibrium conditions. The difference between the two solutions increases with the ratio of molecular diameter to the compartment length scale. We show that an increase in the fraction of excluded space can (i) lead to deviations from the classical inverse square root law for the noise-strength, (ii) flip the skewness of the probability distribution from right to left-skewed, (iii) shift the equilibrium of bimolecular reactions so that more product molecules are formed, and (iv) strongly modulate the Fano factors and coefficients of variation. These volume exclusion effects are found to be particularly pronounced for chemical species not involved in chemical conservation laws. Finally, we show that statistics obtained using the vRDME are in good agreement with those obtained from Brownian dynamics with excluded volume interactions.


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