Nanopore Analysis of Nucleic Acids: Single-Molecule Studies of Molecular Dynamics, Structure, and Base Sequence

Part of the Handbook of Modern Biophysics book series (HBBT)


Nucleic acids are linear polynucleotides in which each base is covalently linked to a pentose sugar and a phosphate group carrying a negative charge. If a pore having roughly the crosssectional diameter of a single-stranded nucleic acid is embedded in a thin membrane and a voltage of 100 mV or more is applied, individual nucleic acids in solution can be captured by the electrical field in the pore and translocated through by single-molecule electrophoresis. The dimensions of the pore cannot accommodate anything larger than a single strand, so each base in the molecule passes through the pore in strict linear sequence. The nucleic acid strand occupies a large fraction of the pore's volume during translocation and therefore produces a transient blockade of the ionic current created by the applied voltage. If it could be demonstrated that each nucleotide in the polymer produced a characteristic modulation of the ionic current during its passage through the nanopore, the sequence of current modulations would reflect the sequence of bases in the polymer. According to this basic concept, nanopores are analogous to a Coulter counter that detects nanoscopic molecules rather than microscopic [1,2]. However, the advantage of nanopores is that individual macromolecules can be characterized because different chemical and physical properties affect their passage through the pore. Because macromolecules can be captured in the pore as well as translocated, the nanopore can be used to detect individual functional complexes that form between a nucleic acid and an enzyme. No other technique has this capability.


Nucleic Acid Molecule Trans Side Nucleic Acid Strand Current Blockade Hairpin Stem 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Humana Press 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Chemistry & BiochemistryUniversity of California Santa CruzCA 95064-1077USA

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