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Quaternary-Ammonium-Modulated Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy Effect: Discovery, Mechanism, and Application for Highly Sensitive In Vitro Sensing of Acetylcholine

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journal contribution
posted on 09.07.2020, 14:39 by Lang Li, Shenfei Zong, Yang Lu, Yizhi Zhang, Ziting Qian, Kai Zhu, Zhile Wang, Kuo Yang, Zhuyuan Wang, Yiping Cui
Quaternary ammonium (QA) plays multiple roles in biological functions, whose dysregulation may result in multiple diseases. However, how to efficiently detect QA-based materials such as acetylcholine (ACh) still remains a great challenge, especially in complex biological environments. Here, a new effect [called quaternary-ammonium-modulated surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (QAM-SERS) effect] is discovered, showing that the existence of QA will modulate the intensity of SERS signals in a concentration-dependent manner. When the QAM-SERS effect is used, a new method is easily developed for in vitro detection of ACh with an extremely high sensitivity and an ultrawide dynamic range. Particularly, the linear dynamic range can be freely tuned to adapt for various physiological samples. As a proof-of-concept experiment, the time-dependent secretion of ACh from PC12 cells was successfully monitored using the QAM-SERS method, which were under either the stimulation of potassium ions or the incubation of drugs. The discovery of the QAM-SERS effect provides an easy and universal strategy for detecting ACh as well as other QA-contained molecules, which can also inspire new insights into the roles that QA could play in biology and chemistry.