Nanoscopic pores in biological systems – cells, for example – are responsible for regulating the transport of ionic and molecular species between physiologically distinct compartments maintained by thin plasma membranes. These biological pores are proteinaceous structures: long, contorted chains of chemical building blocks called amino acids. Protein pores have evolved to span a staggering range of shapes, sizes and chemical properties, each crucial to a pore's unique functionality.
Protein pores have extremely well-defined jobs. For instance, pores called ion channels only transport ions. Within this family, there are pores designated to selectively transport specific ions, such as sodium channels for sodium, chloride channels for chloride and so on. Further subdivisions exist within each type of ion channel, resulting in a pantheon of specialized proteins pores.
Specificity and selectivity are bestowed upon a pore through its unique incorporation and arrangement of its amino acids, which in turn have their own unique chemical and physical properties. With hundreds of task-specific pores, deciphering the precise relationship between form and function in these protein channels is a critical, but daunting task. In this thesis, we examine an alternative for probing the fundamental mechanisms responsible for transport on the nanoscale.
Solid-state membranes offer well-defined structural surrogates to directly address the science underlying pore functionality. Numerous protein pores rely on electronic interactions, size exclusion principles and hydrophobic effects to fulfill their duties, regardless of their amino acid sequence. Substituting an engineered and well-characterized pore, we strive to achieve and, thus, understand the hallmarks of biological pore function: analyte recognition and selective transport.
While we restrict our study to only two readily available membrane materials – one a polymer and the other a ceramic – nanofabrication techniques give us access to a virtually limitless combination of pore shapes and sizes. Exploiting this, we investigate the role of pore geometry in mediating the electrostatic and steric interactions responsible for transport on the nanoscale. Through targeted chemical modifications of our homogenous pores, we easily tailor their surface properties to investigate the role of hydrophobic effects in confined environments. Unbound by the physiological limitations of protein structures (such as sensitivity to electrolyte composition and fragility to external forces), our report concludes with the fusion of fabrication and modification considerations to design robust components for nanofluidic circuitry and nanoscopic biosensors.
|Advisor:||Siwy, Zuzanna S.|
|Commitee:||Dennin, Michael, Shea, Kenneth J.|
|School:||University of California, Irvine|
|Department:||Physics - Ph.D.|
|School Location:||United States -- California|
|Source:||DAI-B 74/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Keywords:||Ion channels, Nanopores, Protein pores, Thin plasma membranes|
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