Controlling a single protein in a nanopore through electrostatic traps

J Am Chem Soc. 2008 Mar 26;130(12):4081-8. doi: 10.1021/ja710787a. Epub 2008 Mar 6.


Protein-protein pore interaction is a fundamental and ubiquitous process in biology and medical biotechnology. Here, we employed high-resolution time-resolved single-channel electrical recording along with protein engineering to examine a protein-protein pore interaction at single-molecule resolution. The pore was formed by Staphylococcus aureus alpha-hemolysin (alphaHL) protein and contained electrostatic traps formed by rings of seven aspartic acid residues placed at two different positions within the pore lumen. The protein analytes were positively charged presequences (pb2) of varying length fused to the small ribonuclease barnase (Ba). The presence of the electrostatic traps greatly enhanced the interaction of the pb2-Ba protein with the alphaHL protein pore. This study demonstrates the high sensitivity of the nanopore technique to an array of factors that govern the protein-protein pore interaction, including the length of the pb2 presequence, the position of the electrostatic traps within the pore lumen, the ionic strength of the aqueous phase, and the transmembrane potential. Alterations in the functional properties of the pb2-Ba protein and the alphaHL protein pore and systematic changes of the experimental parameters revealed the balance between forces driving the pb2-Ba protein into the pore and forces driving it out.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aspartic Acid / chemistry
  • Bacterial Toxins / chemistry*
  • Hemolysin Proteins / chemistry*
  • Lipid Bilayers / chemistry
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Engineering
  • Ribonucleases / chemistry*
  • Static Electricity
  • Time Factors


  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Hemolysin Proteins
  • Lipid Bilayers
  • staphylococcal alpha-toxin
  • Aspartic Acid
  • Ribonucleases