Single Nucleotides Moving through Nanoslits Composed of Self-Assembled Monolayers via Equilibrium and Nonequilibrium Molecular Dynamics
Nonequilibrium molecular dynamics (MD) simulations were used to study the effect of three chemical surface groups on the separation of DNA mononucleotide velocity (or time-of-flight) distributions as they pass through nanoslits. We used nanoslits functionalize with self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) since they have relatively smooth surfaces. The SAM molecules were terminated with either a methyl, methylformyl, or phenoxy group, and the nucleotides were driven electrophoretically with an electric field intensity of 0.1 V/nm in slits about 3 nm wide. Although these large driving forces are physically difficult to achieve experimentally, the simulations are still of great value as they provide molecular level insight into nucleotide translocation events and allow comparison of different surfaces. Nucleotides adsorbed and desorbed from the slit surface multiple times during the simulations. The required slit length for 99% accuracy in identifying the deoxynucleotide monophosphates (dNMPs), based on the separation of the distributions of time of flight, was used to compare the surfaces with shorter lengths indicating more efficient separation. The lengths were 6.5 μm for phenoxy-terminated SAMs, 270 μm for methylformyl-terminated SAMs, and 2400 μm for methyl-terminated SAMs. Our study showed that a slit with a section with methyl termination and the second section with methylformyl termination lead to a required length of 120 μm, which was significantly lower than for only a methylformyl- or methyl-terminated surface.