PloS one

RNase A does not translocate the alpha-hemolysin pore.

PMID 24505349


The application of nanopore sensing utilizing the α-hemolysin pore to probe proteins at single-molecule resolution has expanded rapidly. In some studies protein translocation through the α-hemolysin has been reported. However, there is no direct evidence, as yet, that proteins can translocate the α-hemolysin pore. The biggest challenge to obtaining direct evidence is the lack of a highly sensitive assay to detect very low numbers of protein molecules. Furthermore, if an activity based assay is applied then the proteins translocating by unfolding should refold back to an active confirmation for the assay technique to work. To overcome these challenges we selected a model enzyme, ribonuclease A, that readily refolds to an active conformation even after unfolding it with denaturants. In addition we have developed a highly sensitive reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction based activity assay for ribonuclease A. Initially, ribonuclease A, a protein with a positive net charge and dimensions larger than the smallest diameter of the pore, was subjected to nanopore analysis under different experimental conditions. Surprisingly, although the protein was added to the cis chamber (grounded) and a positive potential was applied, the interaction of ribonuclease A with α-hemolysin pore induced small and large blockade events in the presence and the absence of a reducing and/or denaturing agent. Upon measuring the zeta potential, it was found that the protein undergoes a charge reversal under the experimental conditions used for nanopore sensing. From the investigation of the effect of voltage on the interaction of ribonuclease A with the α-hemolysin pore, it was impossible to conclude if the events observed were translocations. However, upon testing for ribonuclease A activity on the trans chamber it was found that ribonuclease A does not translocate the α-hemolysin pore.