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Single-Molecule Titration in a Protein Nanoreactor Reveals the Protonation/Deprotonation Mechanism of a C:C Mismatch in DNA

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journal contribution
posted on 21.03.2018 by Hang Ren, Cameron G. Cheyne, Aaron M. Fleming, Cynthia J. Burrows, Henry S. White
Measurement of single-molecule reactions can elucidate microscopic mechanisms that are often hidden from ensemble analysis. Herein, we report the acid–base titration of a single DNA duplex confined within the wild-type α-hemolysin (α-HL) nanopore for up to 3 h, while monitoring the ionic current through the nanopore. Modulation between two states in the current–time trace for duplexes containing the C:C mismatch in proximity to the latch constriction of α-HL is attributed to the base flipping of the C:C mismatch. As the pH is lowered, the rate for the C:C mismatch to flip from the intra-helical state to the extra-helical state (kintra-extra) decreases, while the rate for base flipping from the extra-helical state to the intra-helical state (kextra‑intra) remains unchanged. Both kintra-extra and kextra‑intra are on the order of 1 × 10–2 s–1 to 1 × 10–1 s–1 and remain stable over the time scale of the measurement (several hours). Analysis of the pH-dependent kinetics of base flipping using a hidden Markov kinetic model demonstrates that protonation/deprotonation occurs while the base pair is in the intra-helical state. We also demonstrate that the rate of protonation is limited by transport of H+ into the α-HL nanopore. Single-molecule kinetic isotope experiments exhibit a large kinetic isotope effect (KIE) for kintra-extra (kH/kD ≈ 5) but a limited KIE for kextra‑intra (kH/kD ≈ 1.3), supporting our model. Our experiments correspond to the longest single-molecule measurements performed using a nanopore, and demonstrate its application in interrogating mechanisms of single-molecule reactions in confined geometries.