Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Lollipops and ice fishing: Molecular rulers used to probe nanopores

30.04.2010
Using a pair of exotic techniques including a molecular-scale version of ice fishing, a team of researchers working at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed methods to measure accurately the length of "nanopores," the miniscule channels found in cell membranes.

The "molecular rulers" they describe in a recent paper* could serve as a way to calibrate tailor-made nanopores—whose diameters on average are nearly 10,000 times smaller than that of a human hair—for a variety of applications such as rapid DNA analysis.

Studies at NIST and other research institutions have shown that a single nanometer-scale pore in a thin membrane can be used as a "miniature analysis laboratory" to detect and characterize individual biological molecules such as DNA or toxins as they pass through or block the passage. Such a system could potentially fit on a single microchip device, for a wide variety of applications. However, making the mini-lab practical requires an accurate definition of the dimensions and structural features of the nanopore.

In new experiments, researchers from NIST and the University of Maryland first built a membrane—a bilayer sheet of lipid molecules—similar to that found in animal cells. They "drilled" a pore in it with a protein** designed specifically to penetrate cell membranes. When voltage is applied across the membrane wall, charged molecules such as single-stranded DNA are forced into the nanopore. As the molecule passes into the channel, the ionic current flow is reduced for a time that is proportional to the size of the chain, allowing its length to be easily derived.

If a chain is long enough to reach the narrowest part of the nanopore—known as the pinch point—the force of the electrical field behind it will push the molecule on through the rest of the channel. Exploiting this characteristic, the NIST/Maryland team developed a DNA probe method to measure the distances from the openings on each side of the membrane to the pinch point, and in turn, the entire length of the nanopore by adding the two measurements together. The probes consist of DNA strands of known lengths topped on one end by a polymer sphere. The sphere prevents the probe from completely moving through the nanopore while leaving the DNA chain dangling from it free to extend into the channel. If the chain reaches the pinch point, the force that would normally drive a free DNA chain past the junction instead holds the probe in place (since the polymer sphere "locks" it at the other end) and defines the distance to the pinch point. If the chain is shorter than the distance to the pinch point, it will be bounced out of the nanopore, telling researchers that a longer-length chain is needed to measure the distance to the gap.

The NIST/Maryland researchers also developed a second means of measuring the length of the nanopore to confirm the results of the "single lollipop" method. In this system, polymer molecules are allowed to circulate freely in the solution found on the inner side of the membrane. Polymer-capped DNA probes of different lengths are forced one at a time into the nanopore from the opposite side. If the end of a probe's chain is long enough to completely transverse the channel, it will grab hold of a free polymer molecule in solution. This defines the length of the channel.

Additionally, this "ice fishing" method provides insight into the structure of the nanopore. As the DNA chain winds its way through, changes in electrical voltage correspond to the changing shape of the channel. This information can be used to effectively map the passageway.

* S.E. Henrickson, E.A. DiMarzio, Q. Wang, V.M. Stanford and J.J. Kasianowicz. Probing single nanometer-scale pores with polymeric molecular rulers. The Journal of Chemical Physics 132, 135101 (published online April 2, 2010).

** Alpha-hemolysin, produced by the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria

Michael E. Newman | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nist.gov

Further reports about: DNA DNA strand Lollipops Molecular Target NIST NIST/Maryland cell membrane polymer molecule

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Further Improvement of Qubit Lifetime for Quantum Computers
09.12.2016 | Forschungszentrum Jülich

nachricht Electron highway inside crystal
09.12.2016 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>