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In this study we examined the influence of a transmembrane voltage on the hydrophobic gating of nanopores using molecular dynamics simulations. We observed electric field induced wetting of a hydrophobic gate in a biologically inspired model nanopore based on the 5-HT3 receptor in its closed state, with a field of at least ∼100 mV nm-1 (corresponding to a supra-physiological potential difference of ~0.85 V across the membrane) required to hydrate the pore. We also found an unequal distribution of charged residues can generate an electric field intrinsic to the nanopore which, depending on its orientation, can alter the effect of the external field, thus making the wetting response asymmetric. This wetting response could be described by a simple model based on water surface tension, the volumetric energy contribution of the electric field, and the influence of charged amino acids lining the pore. Finally, the electric field response was used to determine time constants characterising the phase transitions of water confined within the nanopore, revealing liquid-vapour oscillations on a time scale of ~5 ns. This time scale was largely independent of the water model employed and was similar for different sized pores representative of the open and closed states of the pore. Furthermore, our finding that the threshold voltage required for hydrating a hydrophobic gate depends on the orientation of the electric field provides an attractive perspective for the design of rectifying artificial nanopores.

Original publication

DOI

10.1021/acsnano.0c04387

Type

Journal article

Journal

ACS Nano

Publication Date

16/07/2020