Carbohydrates are one of the four main building blocks of life, and are categorized as monosaccharides (sugars), oligosaccharides and polysaccharides. Each sugar can exist in two alternative anomers (in which a hydroxy group at C-1 takes different orientations) and each pair of sugars can form different epimers (isomers around the stereocentres connecting the sugars). This leads to a vast combinatorial complexity, intractable to mass spectrometry and requiring large amounts of sample for NMR characterization. Combining measurements of collision cross section with mass spectrometry (IM-MS) helps, but many isomers are still difficult to separate. Here, we show that recognition tunnelling (RT) can classify many anomers and epimers via the current fluctuations they produce when captured in a tunnel junction functionalized with recognition molecules. Most importantly, RT is a nanoscale technique utilizing sub-picomole quantities of analyte. If integrated into a nanopore, RT would provide a unique approach to sequencing linear polysaccharides.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Physics and Astronomy(all)