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ACS Nano. 2017 Nov 28;11(11):11169-11181. doi: 10.1021/acsnano.7b05500. Epub 2017 Oct 6.

Quantum Point Contact Single-Nucleotide Conductance for DNA and RNA Sequence Identification.

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Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, ‡Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI), §BioFrontiers Institute, and ⊥Materials Science and Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder , Boulder, Colorado 80309, United States.


Several nanoscale electronic methods have been proposed for high-throughput single-molecule nucleic acid sequence identification. While many studies display a large ensemble of measurements as "electronic fingerprints" with some promise for distinguishing the DNA and RNA nucleobases (adenine, guanine, cytosine, thymine, and uracil), important metrics such as accuracy and confidence of base calling fall well below the current genomic methods. Issues such as unreliable metal-molecule junction formation, variation of nucleotide conformations, insufficient differences between the molecular orbitals responsible for single-nucleotide conduction, and lack of rigorous base calling algorithms lead to overlapping nanoelectronic measurements and poor nucleotide discrimination, especially at low coverage on single molecules. Here, we demonstrate a technique for reproducible conductance measurements on conformation-constrained single nucleotides and an advanced algorithmic approach for distinguishing the nucleobases. Our quantum point contact single-nucleotide conductance sequencing (QPICS) method uses combed and electrostatically bound single DNA and RNA nucleotides on a self-assembled monolayer of cysteamine molecules. We demonstrate that by varying the applied bias and pH conditions, molecular conductance can be switched ON and OFF, leading to reversible nucleotide perturbation for electronic recognition (NPER). We utilize NPER as a method to achieve >99.7% accuracy for DNA and RNA base calling at low molecular coverage (∼12×) using unbiased single measurements on DNA/RNA nucleotides, which represents a significant advance compared to existing sequencing methods. These results demonstrate the potential for utilizing simple surface modifications and existing biochemical moieties in individual nucleobases for a reliable, direct, single-molecule, nanoelectronic DNA and RNA nucleotide identification method for sequencing.


RNA sequencing; STM break junction; biophysics; single-molecule DNA sequencing; single-molecule conductance

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