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Nat Commun. 2014 Jun 16;5:4171. doi: 10.1038/ncomms5171.

Stiff filamentous virus translocations through solid-state nanopores.

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Brown University, Department of Physics, Providence, Rhode Island 02912, USA.
University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Faculty of Science, Oshawa, Ontario, Canada L1H 7K4.


The ionic conductance through a nanometer-sized pore in a membrane changes when a biopolymer slides through it, making nanopores sensitive to single molecules in solution. Their possible use for sequencing has motivated numerous studies on how DNA, a semi-flexible polymer, translocates nanopores. Here we study voltage-driven dynamics of the stiff filamentous virus fd with experiments and simulations to investigate the basic physics of polymer translocations. We find that the electric field distribution aligns an approaching fd with the nanopore, promoting its capture, but it also pulls fd sideways against the membrane after failed translocation attempts until thermal fluctuations reorient the virus for translocation. fd is too stiff to translocate in folded configurations. It therefore translocates linearly, exhibiting a voltage-independent mobility and obeying first-passage-time statistics. Surprisingly, lengthwise Brownian motion only partially accounts for the translocation velocity fluctuations. We also observe a voltage-dependent contribution whose origin is only partially determined.

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