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Mimicking nature at the nanoscale: Selective transport across a biomimetic nanopore

Date:
June 21, 2011
Source:
Delft University of Technology
Summary:
Researchers have established a biomimetic nanopore that provides a unique test and measurement platform for the way that proteins move into a cell's nucleus. In a new study, they report an artificial nanopore that is functionalized with key proteins which mimics the natural nuclear pore.

Artistic rendering of biomimetic nuclear pore complexes where key nuclear pore proteins (blue ‘spaghetti-like’ molecules) are attached to solid-state nanopores (holes in the orange/brown bottom layer). Remarkably, these biomimetic pores exhibit selectivity (the hallmark of naturally occurring nuclear pores), which means that ImpB proteins (purple) do pass the pores, whereas BSA proteins (yellow) do not. The bottom-up nano-engineering approach allows to investigate behavior of nuclear pores outside the complex cellular environment, and might serve as a platform for testing gene and drug delivery into a cell’s nucleus.
Credit: Image courtesy Cees Dekker lab TU Delft / Tremani

Researchers at Delft University of Technology and the University of Basel have established a biomimetic nanopore that provides a unique test and measurement platform for the way that proteins move into a cell's nucleus.

In the journal Nature Nanotechnology, they report an artificial nanopore that is functionalized with key proteins which mimicks the natural nuclear pore. Upon testing the transport of individual proteins through the biomimetic pore, they found that most proteins cannot move through, but some specific ones can indeed pass. This is the hallmark of the intriguing selectivity that is also found in natural pores. The biomimetic pore is fully functional and can be used as a testing platform for studies of drug delivery into a cell's nucleus.

The nuclear pore complex

"Human cells have a nucleus, and proteins and RNA need to get in and out. This is regulated by small holes, called nuclear pore complexes. These are essential biological pores that act as gatekeepers of the cell nucleus. They transport proteins and RNA in and out of the nucleus in a highly selective manner, which means that some go through but others are blocked from passing. There is much debate on how this intriguing selectivity is achieved. Given the fact that it is very difficult to perform high-resolution measurements in the complex environment of the living cell, the exact mechanism is hard to resolve." Professor Cees Dekker, director of the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience at Delft and leader of this research, explains. In the new research by Dekker's group in collaboration with the group of dr. Roderick Lim of the University of Basel, they were able to make a biomimetic nanopore -- a synthetic pore that imitates the nuclear pore -- which acts as a new, powerful platform to monitor transport of individual proteins across.

Biomimetic nanopore

Dekker: "One promising approach to study this nuclear transport is biomimetics -- the development of synthetic systems that imitate biological structures and processes. Advances in nanotechnology now make it possible to study and shape matter at the nanometer scale, opening the way to imitate biological structures at the molecular level to both study and harness their ingenuity." The group of dr. Roderick Lim at the University of Basel purified the nuclear pore proteins and Dekkers group made the biomimetic nanopores of these by attaching these proteins to small holes in a solid-state support.

Selectivity

The new research, performed chiefly by lead author Stefan Kowalczyk, a graduate student in Dekkers lab, demonstrates that it is possible to establish a biomimetic nuclear pore and to monitor transport of individual proteins across the pore. Importantly, the biomimetic pore exhibits strong selectivity, just like the natural nuclear pore complex: ImpB proteins do pass the pores, whereas BSA proteins do not (as illustrated by the attached image). A differing degree of selectivity was found, depending on which exact nuclear pore proteins were used to functionalize the pore. The researchers have shown that the biomimetic pore is fully functional and can be used as a testing platform for studies of drug delivery into a cell's nucleus.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Delft University of Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Stefan W. Kowalczyk, Larisa Kapinos, Timothy R. Blosser, Tomαs Magalhγes, Pauline van Nies, Roderick Y. H. Lim, Cees Dekker. Single-molecule transport across an individual biomimetic nuclear pore complex. Nature Nanotechnology, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2011.88

Cite This Page:

Delft University of Technology. "Mimicking nature at the nanoscale: Selective transport across a biomimetic nanopore." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110620094557.htm>.
Delft University of Technology. (2011, June 21). Mimicking nature at the nanoscale: Selective transport across a biomimetic nanopore. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110620094557.htm
Delft University of Technology. "Mimicking nature at the nanoscale: Selective transport across a biomimetic nanopore." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110620094557.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

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