Graphene Nanopores for Protein Sequencing

James Wilson, Leila Sloman, Zhiren He, Aleksei Aksimentiev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An inexpensive, reliable method for protein sequencing is essential to unraveling the biological mechanisms governing cellular behavior and disease. Current protein sequencing methods suffer from limitations associated with the size of proteins that can be sequenced, the time, and the cost of the sequencing procedures. This study reports the results of all-atom molecular dynamics simulations that investigated the feasibility of using graphene nanopores for protein sequencing. The study is focused on the biologically significant phenylalanine-glycine repeat peptides (FG-nups)—parts of the nuclear pore transport machinery. Surprisingly, FG-nups are found to behave similarly to single stranded DNA: The peptides adhere to graphene and exhibit stepwise translocation when subject to a transmembrane bias or a hydrostatic pressure gradient. Reducing the peptide's charge density or increasing the peptide's hydrophobicity is found to decrease the translocation speed. Yet, unidirectional and stepwise translocation driven by a transmembrane bias is observed even when the ratio of charged to hydrophobic amino acids is as low as 1:8. The nanopore transport of the peptides is found to produce stepwise modulations of the nanopore ionic current correlated with the type of amino acids present in the nanopore, suggesting that protein sequencing by measuring ionic current blockades may be possible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4830-4838
Number of pages9
JournalAdvanced Functional Materials
Issue number27
StatePublished - Jul 19 2016


  • graphene
  • ionic current
  • nanopore sequencing
  • transmembrane transport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Graphene Nanopores for Protein Sequencing'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this