Scientific reports

Live Intracellular Biorthogonal Imaging by Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy using Alkyne-Silver Nanoparticles Clusters.

PMID 30140073


Live intracellular imaging is a valuable tool in modern diagnostics and pharmacology. Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS) stands out as a non-destructive and multiplexed technique, but intracellular SERS imaging still suffers from interfering background from endogenous components. Here we show the assembly of small colloidal SERS probes with Raman signal in the cell-silent window of 1800-2900 cm-1 for biorthogonal intracellular SERS imaging of dopamine that was undistinguishable from the endogenous cell background. By linking colloidal silver nanoparticles with alkyne-dopamine adducts, clusters are formed by 2-6 nanoparticles spaced by tight interparticle gaps that exhibited high electric field enhancement and strong SERS signals of alkyne and dopamines. Due to the cell-silent signals of the alkyne, intracellular in-vitro Raman imaging shows that the dopamines on the internalized clusters remain distinguishable across the cytoplasm with good spatial resolution. Our method can be a general-purpose method for real-time imaging of biomolecules, such as proteins, peptides, DNA and drugs.