Frontiers in ion channels and nanopores: theory, experiments, and simulation
Ion channels are proteins opening pores through biological membranes allowing selective ion transport. This is the basis of vital functions like nerve signal transmission and muscle contraction. The possibility to embed ion channels in artificial lipid bilayers has disclosed the opportunity of many technological applications whose prototype is DNA sequencing. Ion channels are, however, extremely sensitive to the external environment and once they are extracted from their biological setting, they tend to lose their unique properties. This has prompted massive research efforts in order to produce synthetic nanopores in solid-state materials. Unfortunately, artificial nanopores are still incapable of replicating the exquisite selectivity, controllability and transport properties of biological ion channels. Our meeting, bringing together scientists from the biological and physical sciences, advocates a biomimetic approach, whereby the study of biological channels is aimed at unveiling general design principles transferable to the engineering of artificial nanopores.
The workshop is organized in six sessions covering a broad range of topics and approaches. The session on "Computational methods/Theory" will guide the audience through the intricacies of enhanced sampling methods necessary to characterize the free energy landscape of processes occurring on timescales not reacheable with ordinary computational resources. The "Experimental gating" session will provide an account of the latest fabrication and nanomanipulation techniques allowing the investigation of individual nanopores. Despite many exciting achievements, the performance of artificial nanopores is still not comparable to that of their biological counterparts that will be discussed in detail in the "Ion channel simulations" session. A key property of ion channels that needs to be replicated in artificial nanopores is gating, i.e., the possibility to control the opening and closing of the pore with specific stimuli. This leads to the "Hydrophobic gating" session where we will learn how a channel can become functionally closed even in the absence of steric occlusion. Hydrophobic gating can be considered as a particular instance of "Drying in nanoconfinement" a phenomenon deriving from the peculiar properties of water at the nanoscale that will be illustrated in the eponymous session. The congress will be concluded by the "Nanopore technology" session providing a review of the broad range of applications of nanopores, from energy storage materials to the design of new anaesthetics.
Participation is free of charge, but registration is necessary through the website (https://sites.google.com/uniroma1.it/ficn2021/registration). Each session, in addition to the invited speakers, will host one or two contributed talks. An extended poster session is also envisaged. Contributions are welcome through the CECAM website or by writing to the organizers until the deadline on October, 31 2020.
The event will be run in accordance to the highest COVID-19 safety standards, employing a large conference hall for sessions and an open space for meals to maintain the appropriate social distancing.
Alberto Giacomello (Sapienza University of Rome) - Organiser
Carlo Guardiani (Sapienza University of Rome) - Organiser
Antonio Tinti (Sapienza University of Rome) - Organiser