Orientation discrimination of single-stranded DNA inside the α-hemolysin membrane channel

Jérôme Mathé, Aleksei Aksimentiev, David R. Nelson, Klaus Schulten, Amit Meller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We characterize the voltage-driven motion and the free motion of single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) molecules captured inside the ≈1.5-nm α-hemolysin pore, and show that the DNA-channel interactions depend strongly on the orientation of the ssDNA molecules with respect to the pore. Remarkably, the voltage-free diffusion of the 3′-threaded DNA (in the trans to cis direction) is two times slower than the corresponding 5′-threaded DNA having the same poly(dA) sequence. Moreover, the ion currents flowing through the blocked pore with either a 3′-threaded DNA or 5′ DNA differ by ≈30%. All-atom molecular dynamics simulations of our system reveal a microscopic mechanism for the asymmetric behavior. In a confining pore, the ssDNA straightens and its bases tilt toward the 5′ end, assuming an asymmetric conformation. As a result, the bases of a 5′-threaded DNA experience larger effective friction and forced reorientation that favors co-passing of ions. Our results imply that the translocation process through a narrow pore is more complicated than previously believed and involves base tilting and stretching of ssDNA molecules inside the confining pore.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12377-12382
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number35
StatePublished - Aug 30 2005


  • Asymmetry
  • DNA hairpin
  • DNA translocation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • General


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