Artificial Proton Channels through Membranes

April 13, 2020
Artificial Proton Channels through Membranes
Illustration of the proton channels formed in lipid bilayers by designed random heteropolymers. (credit: ORNL/ Jill Hemman).

Scientific Achievement

Newly synthesized heteropolymers were shown to mimic transmembrane channel proteins with proton transport rates similar to those of natural channels.

Significance and Impact

Biology has evolved many different proteins that transport ions across cellular membranes in a highly selective fashion. Here, heteropolymers composed of four different chemical blocks were created that mimic this functionality, pointing toward new ways for creating artificial systems inspired by nature.

Research Details

  • A multidisciplinary approach integrated synthesis, transport measurements, spectroscopy, imaging, molecular dynamics simulation and small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) to characterize the structure and function of the heteropolymers and their interaction with lipid bilayer membranes.
  • SANS was used to characterize the structure of the polymer channels in the bilayer.

“Single-Chain Heteropolymers Transport Protons Selectively and Rapidly,”
Tao Jiang1,11, Aaron Hall1, Marco Eres1,2, Zahra Hemmatian3,12, Baofu Qiao4, Yun Zhou5, Zhiyuan Ruan1, Andrew D. Couse1,13, William T. Heller6, Haiyan Huang7, Monica Olvera de la Cruz4,8, Marco Rolandi3 & Ting Xu1,2,9,10,
Nature, 577 (7789), 216-220 (2020). 
DOI:  0.1038/s41586-019-1881-0