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Stealth Surface Modification of Surface-Enhanced Raman Scattering Substrates for Sensitive and Accurate Detection in Protein Solutions

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journal contribution
posted on 24.03.2015 by Fang Sun, Jean-Rene Ella-Menye, Daniel David Galvan, Tao Bai, Hsiang-Chieh Hung, Ying-Nien Chou, Peng Zhang, Shaoyi Jiang, Qiuming Yu
Reliable surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) based biosensing in complex media is impeded by nonspecific protein adsorptions. Because of the near-field effect of SERS, it is challenging to modify SERS-active substrates using conventional nonfouling materials without introducing interference from their SERS signals. Herein, we report a stealth surface modification strategy for sensitive, specific and accurate detection of fructose in protein solutions using SERS by forming a mixed self-assembled monolayer (SAM). The SAM consists of a short zwitterionic thiol, N,N-dimethyl-cysteamine-carboxybetaine (CBT), and a fructose probe 4-mercaptophenylboronic acid (4-MPBA). The specifically designed and synthesized CBT not only resists protein fouling effectively, but also has very weak Raman activity compared to 4-MPBA. Thus, the CBT SAM provides a stealth surface modification to SERS-active substrates. The surface compositions of mixed SAMs were investigated using X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and SERS, and their nonfouling properties were studied with a surface plasmon resonance (SPR) biosensor. The mixed SAM with a surface composition of 94% CBT demonstrated a very low bovine serum albumin (BSA) adsorption (∼3 ng/cm2), and moreover, only the 4-MPBA signal appeared in the SERS spectrum. With the use of this surface-modified SERS-active substrate, quantification of fructose over clinically relevant concentrations (0.01–1 mM) was achieved. Partial least-squares regression (PLS) analysis showed that the detection sensitivity and accuracy were maintained for the measurements in 1 mg/mL BSA solutions. This stealth surface modification strategy provides a novel route to introduce nonfouling property to SERS-active substrates for SERS biosensing in complex media.