Designing biomimetic pores based on carbon nanotubes
Biomimetic nanopores based on membrane-spanning single-walled carbon nanotubes have been designed to include selectivity filters based on combinations of anionic and cationic groups mimicking those present in bacterial porins and in voltage-gated sodium and calcium channels. The ion permeation and selectivity properties of these nanopores when embedded in a phospholipid bilayer have been explored by molecular dynamics simulations and free energy profile calculations. The interactions of the nanopores with sodium, potassium, calcium, and chloride ions have been explored as a function of the number of anionic and cationic groups within the selectivity filter. Unbiased molecular dynamics simulations show that the overall selectivity is largely determined by the net charge of the filter. Analysis of distribution functions reveals considerable structuring of the distribution of ions and water within the nanopores. The distributions of ions along the pore axis reveal local selectivity for cations around filter, even in those nanopores (C0) where the net filter charge is zero. Single ion free energy profiles also reveal clear evidence for cation selectivity, even in the C0 nanopores. Detailed analysis of the interactions of the C0 nanopore with Ca2+ ions reveals that local interactions with the anionic (carboxylate) groups of the selectivity filter lead to (partial) replacement of solvating water as the ion passes through the pore. These studies suggest that a computational biomimetic approach can be used to evaluate our understanding of the design principles of nanopores and channels.