Published: July 30, 2019
Graphs of flux and selectivity of particles traversing nuclear pore complex. From Maguire et al. 2019

Laura Maguire, Michael Stefferson, Meredith D. Betterton, Loren E. Hough (2019). Phys. Rev. E 100, 042414 DOI:10.1103/PhysRevE.100.042414, BioRxiv DOI:10.1101/709675. Download

In biological systems, polymeric materials block the movement of some macromolecules while allowing the selective passage of others. In some cases, binding enables selective transport, while in others the most inert particles appear to transit most rapidly. To study the general principles of filtering, we develop a model motivated by features of the nuclear pore complex (NPC) which are highly conserved and could potentially be applied to other biological systems. The NPC allows selective transport of proteins called transport factors which transiently bind to disordered, flexible proteins called FG Nups. While the NPC is tuned for transport factors and their cargo, we show that a single feature is sufficient for selective transport: the bound-state motion resulting from transient binding to flexible filaments. Interchain transfer without unbinding can further improve selectivity, especially for crosslinked chains. We generalize this observation to model nanoparticle transport through mucus and show that bound-state motion accelerates transport of transient nanoparticle application, even with clearance by mucus flow. Our model provides a framework to control binding-induced selective transport in bipolymeric materials.