Sensing of protein molecules through nanopores: A molecular dynamics study

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Solid-state nanopores have been shown to be suitable for single molecule detection. While numerous modeling investigations exist for DNA within nanopores, there are few simulations of protein translocations. In this paper, we use atomistic molecular dynamics to investigate the translocation of proteins through a silicon nitride nanopore. The nanopore dimensions and profile are representative of experimental systems. We are able to calculate the change in blockade current and friction coefficient for different positions of the protein within the pore. The change in ionic current is found to be negligible until the protein is fully within the pore and the current is lowest when the protein is in the pore center. Using a simple theory that gives good quantitative agreement with the simulation results we are able to show that the variation in current with position is a function of the pore shape. In simulations that guide the protein through the nanopore we identify the effect that confinement has on the friction coefficient of the protein. This integrated view of translocation at the nanoscale provides useful insights that can be used to guide the design of future devices. © 2014 IOP Publishing Ltd.