Autonomous and Active Transport Operated by an Entropic DNA Piston

Mariam Bayoumi, Stefanos K Nomidis, Kherim Willems, Enrico Carlon*, Giovanni Maglia*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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We present a synthetic nanoscale piston that uses chemical energy to perform molecular transport against an applied bias. Such a device comprises a 13 by 5 nm protein cylinder, embedded in a biological membrane enclosing a single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) rod. Hybridization with DNA cargo rigidifies the rod, allowing for transport of a selected DNA molecule across the nanopore. A strand displacement reaction from ssDNA fuel on the other side of the membrane then liberates the DNA cargo back into solution and regenerates the initial configuration. The entropic penalty of ssDNA confinement inside the nanopore drives DNA transport regardless of the applied bias. Multiple automated and reciprocating cycles are observed, in which the DNA piston moves through the 10 nm length of the nanopore. In every cycle, a single DNA molecule is transported across the nanopore against an external bias force, which is the hallmark of biological transporters.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberacs.nanolett.0c04464
Pages (from-to)762-768
Number of pages7
JournalNano Letters
Issue number1
Early online date19-Dec-2020
Publication statusPublished - Mar-2021


  • nanotransport
  • synthetic device
  • DNA nanotechnology
  • molecular transport
  • nanomachine

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