Efficient delivery of therapeutic macromolecules and nanomaterials into the nucleus is imperative for gene therapy and nanomedicine. Nucleocytoplasmic molecular transport, however, is tightly regulated by the nuclear pore complex (NPC) with the hydrophobic transport barriers based on phenylalanine and glycine repeats. Herein, we apply scanning electrochemical microscopy (SECM) to quantitatively study the permeability of the NPCs to small probe ions with a wide range of hydrophobicity as a measure of their hydrophobic interactions with the transport barriers. Amperometric detection of the redox-inactive probe ions is enabled by using the ion-selective SECM tips based on the micropipet- or nanopipet-supported interfaces between two immiscible electrolyte solutions. The remarkably high ion permeability of the NPCs is successfully measured by SECM and theoretically analyzed. This analysis demonstrates that the ion permeability of the NPCs is determined by the dimensions and density of the nanopores without a significant effect of the transport barriers on the transported ions. Importantly, the weak ion-barrier interactions become significant at sufficiently high concentrations of extremely hydrophobic ions, i.e., tetraphenylarsonium and perfluorobutylsulfonate, to permeabilize the NPCs to naturally impermeable macromolecules. Dependence of ion-induced permeabilization of the NPC on the pathway and mode of macromolecular transport is studied by using fluorescence microscopy to obtain deeper insights into the gating mechanism of the NPC as the basis of a new transport model.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Analytical Chemistry