Potential application of SERS for arsenic speciation in biological matrices

Anal Bioanal Chem. 2017 Aug;409(20):4683-4695. doi: 10.1007/s00216-017-0434-3. Epub 2017 Jun 30.


Speciation of arsenic is usually carried out using chromatography-based methods coupled with spectroscopic determination; however, the inevitable procedures involving sample preparation and separation could potentially alter the integrity of the arsenic metabolites present in biological samples. Surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) could be a promising alternative for providing a reliable arsenic analysis under the influence of a cellular matrix. A method for arsenic speciation using SERS in cellular matrix was developed in this study and four arsenicals were selected, including arsenite (AsIII), arsenate (AsV), monomethylarsonic acid (MMAV) and dimethylarsinic acid (DMAV). Silver nanoparticles in the form of colliodal suspension with different surface charges, i.e., coated with citrate (AgNPs-Citrate) and spermine (AgNPs-Spermine) were employed as SERS substrates. Adsorption of arsenicals on nanoparticles in colloidal suspensions and the cellular matrix and the pH, size, and zeta potential of the colloidal suspensions were investigated for a better understanding of the SERS signal response of arsenicals in the colloidal suspensions or under the influence of cellular matrix. Arsenicals showed substantially different SERS responses in the two colloidal suspensions, mainly because of the distinct difference in the interaction between the arsenicals and the nanoparticles. Arsenic speciation in cell lysate could be successfully carried out in AgNPs-Spermine suspension, while AgNPs-Citrate could not yield significant SERS signals under the experimental conditions. This study proved that AgNPs-Spermine colloidal suspension could be a promising SERS substrate for studying arsenic metabolism in a biological matrix, reducing the bias caused by traditional techniques that involve sample extraction and pretreatment.

Keywords: Arsenic; Cell lysate; Nanoparticles; SERS; Speciation.

MeSH terms

  • Arsenic / analysis
  • Arsenic / chemistry*
  • Colloids
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods
  • Metal Nanoparticles / chemistry
  • Spectrum Analysis, Raman / methods*


  • Colloids
  • Arsenic