Generalized mass action systems: Complex balancing equilibria and sign vectors of the stoichiometric and kinetic-order subspaces
Mass action systems capture chemical reaction networks in homogeneous and dilute solutions. We suggest a notion of generalized mass action systems that admits arbitrary nonnegative power-law rate functions and serves as a more realistic model for reaction networks in intracellular environments. In addition to the chemical complexes and the related stoichiometric subspace, we introduce corresponding kinetic complexes, which represent the nonnegative exponents in the rate functions and determine the kinetic-order subspace. We show that several results of Chemical Reaction Network Theory carry over to the case of generalized mass action kinetics. Our main result essentially states that, if the sign vectors of the stoichiometric and the kinetic-order subspace coincide, there exists a unique positive complex balancing equilibrium in every stoichiometric compatibility class. However, in contrast to classical mass action systems, multiple complex balancing equilibria in one stoichiometric compatibility class are possible in general.