Meni Wanunu, Northeastern University

Topic: "Nanopores: Tools for Single-Molecule Biophysics"  (Video)

Abstract: Much more than ever, nucleic acids are recognized as key building blocks in many of life’s processes, and the science of studying nucleic acid-based phenomena at the single-molecule level is thriving. A new method of doing so has been introduced in the mid 1990’s. This method is exceedingly simple: a nanoscale pore that spans across an impermeable thin membrane is placed between two chambers that contain an electrolyte, and voltage is applied across the membrane using two electrodes. Nucleic acid molecules in solution can be driven through the pore, and structural features of biomolecules are observed as changes in the trans-membrane ion current, measured via the electrodes. In essence, a nanopore is a high-throughput ion microscope and a single-molecule force apparatus. Nanopores are taking center stage as a tool that promises to read a DNA sequence, promise that has resulted in overwhelming academic, industrial, and national interest. By optimization of the nanopores dimensions using state-of-the-art nanofabrication methods, we have improved the resolution of nanopores to make them extremely sensitive to the nucleic acid type and its structural features. I will discuss some of these efforts, which have enabled the analysis of various nucleic acid structures such as microRNAs, RNA drug targets, and RNA nanostructures, as well as our recent breakthrough in improving the bandwidth of nanopore measurements to the 1 µs regime.