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Accurate modeling of a biological nanopore with an extended continuum framework


Despite the broad success of biological nanopores as powerful instruments for the analysis of proteins and nucleic acids at the single-molecule level, a fast simulation methodology to accurately model their nanofluidic properties is currently unavailable. This limits the rational engineering of nanopore traits and makes the unambiguous interpretation of experimental results challenging. Here, we present a continuum approach that can faithfully reproduce the experimentally measured ionic conductance of the biological nanopore Cytolysin A (ClyA) over a wide range of ionic strengths and bias potentials. Our model consists of the extended Poisson-Nernst-Planck and Navier-Stokes (ePNP-NS) equations and a computationally efficient 2D-axisymmetric representation for the geometry and charge distribution of the nanopore. Importantly, the ePNP-NS equations achieve this accuracy by self-consistently considering the finite size of the ions and the influence of both the ionic strength and the nanoscopic scale of the pore on the local properties of the electrolyte. These comprise the mobility and diffusivity of the ions, and the density, viscosity and relative permittivity of the solvent. Crucially, by applying our methodology to ClyA, a biological nanopore used for single-molecule enzymology studies, we could directly quantify several nanofluidic characteristics difficult to determine experimentally. These include the ion selectivity, the ion concentration distributions, the electrostatic potential landscape, the magnitude of the electro-osmotic flow field, and the internal pressure distribution. Hence, this work provides a means to obtain fundamental new insights into the nanofluidic properties of biological nanopores and paves the way towards their rational engineering.

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Supplementary files

Article information

20 Apr 2020
26 Jun 2020
First published
10 Jul 2020

Nanoscale, 2020, Accepted Manuscript
Article type

Accurate modeling of a biological nanopore with an extended continuum framework

K. Willems, D. Ruić, F. Lucas, U. Barman, N. Verellen, J. Hofkens, G. Maglia and P. Van Dorpe, Nanoscale, 2020, Accepted Manuscript , DOI: 10.1039/D0NR03114C

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