The aim of DNA sequencing is to obtain the order of DNA composition comprising the base pairs A (adenine) T (thymine), and C (cytosine) G (guanine). The fast development of DNA sequencing technology allows us to better understand the relationships among diseases, inheritance, and individuality. Solid state nanopores have been recommended as the next generation platform for DNA sequencing due to its low-cost and high-throughput. In particular, nanopores fabricated from graphene sheets are extremely thin and structurally robust and have been extensively used in DNA detection in recent years. In DNA sequencing, the translocation of a DNA molecule through a nanopore is known to be a very complicated issue and is affected by many factors, such as ion concentration, thickness of the nanopore, and the nanopore diameter. The technique of molecular dynamic simulations has been a complementary tool to study DNA translocation through nanopores.
In this thesis, I summarize my work of computational studies of DNA sequencing using graphene nanopores. These studies include: DNA translocation through single-layer graphene nanopores of different diameters under conditions of various ion concentrations and applied voltages; DNA translocation through multilayer graphene nanopores varied from a single to a few layers; pulling out single strand DNA molecules from small graphene nanopores of different geometries. The major contributions of this work include:
1. Effects of bias voltage on DNA translocation time were investigated leading to the insight that lower applied voltages can extend the time of DNA translocation through monolayer graphene nanopores. The effect of salt concentration on the corresponding ionic current was studied. At a low ionic concentration (< 0.3M), the current increases as DNA translocates through a nanopore. However, at a high ionic concentration (>0.5M), the current decreases as DNA translocates through the nanopore. A theoretical model was proposed to explore the relationship between the current and the occupied nanopore area. We demonstrated that the DNA translocation time can be prolonged by narrowing the diameter of a nanopore properly and the reduction of the blockade current depends on the ratio of the unoccupied nanopore area to the total nanopore area.
2. DNA translocation through multilayer graphene nanopores was studied by molecular dynamics simulations with the aim to achieve single-base resolution. We show that the DNA translocation time can be extended by increasing the graphene layers up to a moderate number (7) and that the current in DNA translocation undergoes a stepwise change upon DNA going through an multi-layer graphene (MLG) nanopore. A model was built to account for the relationship between the current change and the unoccupied volume of the MLG nanopore. We demonstrate that the blockade current is closely related to the unoccupied volume. The dynamics of DNA translocation depends specifically on the interaction of nucleotides with the graphene sheet. Thus, our study indicates that the resolution of DNA detection can be improved by increasing the number of graphene layers in a certain range and by modifying the surface of graphene nanopores.
3. The effect of graphene nanopore geometry on DNA sequencing has been assessed by steered molecular dynamics simulations. DNA fragments including A, T, C, G and 5-methylcytosine (MC) were pulled through graphene nanopores of different geometries with diameters down to ~1nm by steered molecular dynamics simulations. We demonstrated that the bases (A, T, C, G, and MC) can be indentified in single-base resolution by the characteristic force peak values in a circular graphene nanopore but not in graphene nanopores of other geometries. Symmetric nanopores are thus better suited to DNA sequence detection via force curves than asymmetric nanopores. This implies that the graphene nanopore surface should be modified as symmetric as possible to sequence DNA by an atomic force microscope or optical tweezers. This helps us to understand low-cost and time-efficient DNA sequencing in narrow nanopores.
4. The translocation time for different nucleotides to pass through graphene nanopores with certain diameters was investigated. It was found that the translocation times are different for different bases under a low electric field. The results indicate that DNA can be sequenced by the translocation time to pass through a graphene nanopore.
5. Inspired by the structure of K+ channel proteins, a series of oxygen doped graphene nanopores of different size were designed to discriminate the transport of K+ and Na+ ions. The results indicate that the ion selectivity of such biomimetic graphene nanopores can be simply controlled by the size of the nanopore. Compared to K+, the smaller radius of Na+ leads to a much higher free energy barrier in the nanopore of a certain size.
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2014. , 54 p.
2014-12-18, FB42, AlbaNova Universitetscentrum,Roslagstullsbacken 21, Stockholm, 14:00 (English)