The journey of a single polymer chain to a nanopore

N Afrasiabian and C Denniston, SOFT MATTER, 16, 9101-9112 (2020).

DOI: 10.1039/d0sm01045f

For a polymer to successfully thread through a nanopore, it must first find the nanopore. This so-called capture process is typically considered as a two-stage operation consisting of the chain being delivered at the entrance of the nanopore and then insertion of one of the ends. Studying molecular dynamics-lattice Boltzmann simulations of the capture of a single polymer chain under pressure driven hydrodynamic flow, we observe that the insertion can be essentially automatic with no delay for the ends searching for the nanopore. The deformation of the chain within the converging flow area and also, the interplay between the chain elastic forces and the hydrodynamic drag play an important role in the capture of the chain by the nanopore. Along the journey to the nanopore, the chain may form folded shapes. The competition between the elastic and hydrodynamic forces results in unraveling of the folded conformations (hairpins) as the chain approaches the nanopore. Although the ends are not the only monomers that can thread into the nanopore, the unraveling process can result in much higher probability of threading by the ends.

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