Biological nanopore MspA for DNA sequencing
Manrao, Elizabeth Ann
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Unlocking the information hidden in the human genome provides insight into the inner workings of complex biological systems and can be used to greatly improve health-care. In order to allow for widespread sequencing, new technologies are required that provide fast and inexpensive readings of DNA. Nanopore sequencing is a third generation DNA sequencing technology that is currently being developed to fulfill this need. In nanopore sequencing, a voltage is applied across a small pore in an electrolyte solution and the resulting ionic current is recorded. When DNA passes through the channel, the ionic current is partially blocked. If the DNA bases uniquely modulate the ionic current flowing through the channel, the time trace of the current can be related to the sequence of DNA passing through the pore. There are two main challenges to realizing nanopore sequencing: identifying a pore with sensitivity to single nucleotides and controlling the translocation of DNA through the pore so that the small single nucleotide current signatures are distinguishable from background noise. In this dissertation, I explore the use of <italic>Mycobacterium smegmatis</italic> porin A (MspA) for nanopore sequencing. In order to determine MspA's sensitivity to single nucleotides, DNA strands of various compositions are held in the pore as the resulting ionic current is measured. DNA is immobilized in MspA by attaching it to a large molecule which acts as an anchor. This technique confirms the single nucleotide resolution of the pore and additionally shows that MspA is sensitive to epigenetic modifications and single nucleotide polymorphisms. The forces from the electric field within MspA, the effective charge of nucleotides, and elasticity of DNA are estimated using a Freely Jointed Chain model of single stranded DNA. These results offer insight into the interactions of DNA within the pore. With the nucleotide sensitivity of MspA confirmed, a method is introduced to controllably pass DNA through the pore. Using a DNA polymerase, DNA strands are stepped through MspA one nucleotide at a time. The steps are observable as distinct levels on the ionic-current time-trace and are related to the DNA sequence. These experiments overcome the two fundamental challenges to realizing MspA nanopore sequencing and pave the way to the development of a commercial technology.
- Physics