Crossing Over: Nanostructures that Move Electrons and Ions across Cellular Membranes

Caroline M. Ajo-Franklin, Aleksandr Noy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Critical biological processes such as energy generation and signal transduction are driven by the flow of electrons and ions across the membranes of living cells. As a result, there is substantial interest in creating nanostructured materials that control transport of these charged species across biomembranes. Recent advances in the synthesis of de novo and protein nanostructures for transmembrane ion and electron transport and the mechanistic understanding underlying this transport are described. This body of work highlights the promise such nanostructures hold for directing transmembrane transport of charged species as well as challenges that must be overcome to realize that potential. Living systems generate energy and transduce signals by transporting electrons and ions across cellular membranes. To control these biological processes, nanostructures are created that increase the transmembrane flux of electrons and ions. Recent advances in the creation of these de novo and biologically-derived nanostructures are summarized and remaining challenges to the widespread use of these materials in biotechnological applications are highlighted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5797-5804
Number of pages8
JournalAdvanced Materials
Issue number38
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • abiotic-biotic interfaces
  • bioelectrochemical systems
  • bioelectronics
  • synthetic biology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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