Electrical recognition of the twenty proteinogenic amino acids using an aerolysin nanopore

Hadjer Ouldali, Kumar Sarthak, Tobias Ensslen, Fabien Piguet, Philippe Manivet, Juan Pelta, Jan C. Behrends, Aleksei Aksimentiev, Abdelghani Oukhaled

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review


Efforts to sequence single protein molecules in nanopores1–5 have been hampered by the lack of techniques with sufficient sensitivity to discern the subtle molecular differences among all twenty amino acids. Here we report ionic current detection of all twenty proteinogenic amino acids in an aerolysin nanopore with the help of a short polycationic carrier. Application of molecular dynamics simulations revealed that the aerolysin nanopore has a built-in single-molecule trap that fully confines a polycationic carrier-bound amino acid inside the sensing region of the aerolysin. This structural feature means that each amino acid spends sufficient time in the pore for sensitive measurement of the excluded volume of the amino acid. We show that distinct current blockades in wild-type aerolysin can be used to identify 13 of the 20 natural amino acids. Furthermore, we show that chemical modifications, instrumentation advances and nanopore engineering offer a route toward identification of the remaining seven amino acids. These findings may pave the way to nanopore protein sequencing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)176-181
Number of pages6
JournalNature Biotechnology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Biomedical Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Electrical recognition of the twenty proteinogenic amino acids using an aerolysin nanopore'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this