Identifying single nucleotides by tunnelling current


A major goal in medical research is to develop a DNA sequencing technique that is capable of reading an entire human genome at low cost1,2,3,4. Recently, it was proposed that DNA sequencing could be performed by measuring the electron transport properties of the individual nucleotides in a DNA molecule5. Here, we report electrical detection of single nucleotides using two configurable nanoelectrodes and show that electron transport through single nucleotides occurs by tunnelling. We also demonstrate statistical identification of the nucleotides based on their electrical conductivity, thereby providing an experimental basis for a DNA sequencing technology based on measurements of electron transport.

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Figure 1: Conceptual illustrations of single-nucleotide conductance measurements for DNA sequencing.
Figure 2: It curves obtained for GMP at Vb = 0.75 V with electrode gap size adjusted to 1.0 ± 0.05 nm.
Figure 3: Ip measurements for GMP conducted with Vb varying from 0.25 to 0.75 V, using a pair of nanoelectrodes with electrode gap size adjusted to 1.0 ± 0.05 nm.
Figure 4: Statistical identification of single nucleotides.


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This work was supported in part by the Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research on Innovative Areas (no. 20200025) from the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

Author information




M. Taniguchi and T.K. planned and designed the experiments. M. Tsutsui, M. Taniguchi and K.Y. participated in fabrications of nano-MCBJs and single-nucleotide detection measurements. M. Tsutsui, M. Taniguchi and K.Y. performed data analyses. M. Tsutsui, M. Taniguchi and T.K. co-wrote the paper.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Masateru Taniguchi or Tomoji Kawai.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Tsutsui, M., Taniguchi, M., Yokota, K. et al. Identifying single nucleotides by tunnelling current. Nature Nanotech 5, 286–290 (2010).

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