Enhancement of transport selectivity through nano-channels by non-specific competition.
The functioning of living cells requires efficient and selective transport of materials into and out of the cell, and between different cellular compartments. Much of this transport occurs through nano-scale channels that do not require large scale molecular re-arrangements (such as transition from a 'closed' to an 'open' state) and do not require a direct input of metabolic energy during transport. Nevertheless, these 'always open' channels are highly selective and pass only their cognate molecules, while efficiently excluding all others; indeed, these channels can efficiently transport specific molecules even in the presence of a vast excess of non-specific molecules. Such biological transporters have inspired the creation of artificial nano-channels. These channels can be used as nano-molecular sorters, and can also serve as testbeds for examining modes of biological transport. In this paper, we propose a simple kinetic mechanism that explains how the selectivity of such 'always open' channels can be based on the exclusion of non-specific molecules by specific ones, due to the competition for limited space inside the channel. The predictions of the theory account for the behavior of the nuclear pore complex and of artificial nanopores that mimic its function. This theory provides the basis for future work aimed at understanding the selectivity of various biological transport phenomena.
Zilman, A; Di Talia, S; Jovanovic-Talisman, T; Chait, BT; Rout, MP; Magnasco, MO
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