Designing a hydrophobic barrier within biomimetic nanopores.
Trick JL., Wallace EJ., Bayley H., Sansom MSP.
Nanopores in membranes have a range of potential applications. Biomimetic design of nanopores aims to mimic key functions of biological pores within a stable template structure. Molecular dynamics simulations have been used to test whether a simple β-barrel protein nanopore can be modified to incorporate a hydrophobic barrier to permeation. Simulations have been used to evaluate functional properties of such nanopores, using water flux as a proxy for ionic conductance. The behavior of these model pores has been characterized as a function of pore size and of the hydrophobicity of the amino acid side chains lining the narrow central constriction of the pore. Potential of mean force calculations have been used to calculate free energy landscapes for water and for ion permeation in selected models. These studies demonstrate that a hydrophobic barrier can indeed be designed into a β-barrel protein nanopore, and that the height of the barrier can be adjusted by modifying the number of consecutive rings of hydrophobic side chains. A hydrophobic barrier prevents both water and ion permeation even though the pore is sterically unoccluded. These results both provide insights into the nature of hydrophobic gating in biological pores and channels, and furthermore demonstrate that simple design features may be computationally transplanted into β-barrel membrane proteins to generate functionally complex nanopores.