Electro-Mechanical Conductance Modulation of a Nanopore Using a Removable Gate
Ion channels form the basis of information processing in livings cells by facilitating exchange of electrical signals across and along cellular membranes. Applying the same principles to man-made systems requires development of synthetic ion channels that can alter their conductance in response to a variety of external manipulations. By combining single-molecule electrical recordings with all-atom molecular dynamics simulations, we here demonstrate a new hybrid nanopore system that allows for both a stepwise change of its conductance and a non-linear current-voltage dependence. The conductance modulation is realized by using a short flexible peptide gate that carries opposite electric charge at its ends. We show that a constant transmembrane bias can position, and in a later stage remove, the peptide gate right at the most sensitive sensing region of a biological nanopore FraC, thus partially blocking its channel and producing a stepwise change in the conductance. Increasing or decreasing the bias while having the peptide gate trapped in the pore stretches or compresses the peptide within the nanopore, thus modulating its conductance in a non-linear but reproducible manner. We envision a range of applications of this removable-gate nanopore system, e.g. from an element of biological computing circuits to a test bed for probing the elasticity of intrinsically disordered proteins.