What is it about?

Biological nanopores are amazing molecular machines that perform a wide variety of functions ranging from sorting biomolecules to transmitting signals in our neurons and folding newly produced proteins. Their performance, as measured by their energy efficiency, directionality or selectivity, has no equivalent in artificial systems. Understanding how it works therefore allows us to grasp new physical phenomena. Based on the functioning of biological nanopores, physicists from the Physics Laboratory of the ENS in Lyon (LPENSL) have shown in a publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that it is possible to construct a very simple nanosystem that uses thermal fluctuations to induce directional transport through a porous membrane. The basic principle of its operation is based on the Brownian ratchet concept.

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Why is it important?

This experiment is the proof of principle that it is possible to transport directionally macromolecules using natural thermal fluctuations. This experiment paves the way for the construction of new nanoscale and selective pumps that use thermal fluctuations to operate. The understanding of this phenomenon will also allow to point out the mechanisms at play in biological pores and to better understand their functioning or malfunctioning.

Perspectives

For my future research in the field I intend to test these new concepts in a living cell. The objective will be to measure what is the dynamics of directional transport under physiological conditions

Fabien Montel
Ecole normale superieure de Lyon

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This page is a summary of: Experimental study of a nanoscale translocation ratchet, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, July 2022, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2202527119.
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